Summary- Unfuck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers with science (5-Minute Therapy)  - Dr Faith G Harper

Summary- Unfuck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers with science (5-Minute Therapy) - Dr Faith G Harper

Play this article



Here is a summary of the key points from the book Unfuck Your Brain by Faith Harper:

- Mental health issues primarily result from brain chemicals that have gone awry in response to stressful life events and trauma. Genetics only account for 2-5% of mental health diagnoses.

- The behaviors and feelings we experience are adaptive strategies for coping with environmental difficulties. They are normal responses, though they can become problematic.

- Understanding why our brains respond the way they do to stress, and trauma makes improving our mental health much more accessible. If we only treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying causes, we likely won't fully recover.

- The author draws on her experience as a therapist to explain trauma and mental health in an accessible way. She aims to help readers understand themselves better so they can take action to improve their wellbeing.

- The book explains how trauma impacts the brain using simple science. It then offers practical advice and tools for overcoming anxiety, depression, anger, addiction, and unhealthy relationships.

- The book is meant for those who seek to understand themselves and want to take responsibility for their mental health. It empowers readers with knowledge and skills rather than telling them exactly what to do.

- The key to improving mental health is gaining insight into the underlying causes of our issues, then making manageable changes to establish new patterns of thinking and behaving. Real change is possible, even while dealing with everyday life stresses.

The summary covers the overall purpose and content of the book, the audience it aims to serve, its approach, and its critical messages about understanding yourself, taking responsibility for your mental health, and making realistic improvements by changing thought patterns and behaviors. The assistant identifies the most important details and ideas while condensing the introduction into a high-level overview.

- The author believes self-help should be done in a rock star, DIY manner. The situation is not hopeless and you can get better.

- The author provides a holistic approach to treatment that incorporates both Western and complementary options. The method for the author includes eating healthy, exercising, herbal supplements, acupuncture, meditation, massage, and pedicures. The approach for the author's son includes football, weightlifting, grounding exercises, meditation, neurofeedback, supplements, and medication.

- The book provides mini-exercises to help process the topics discussed. The exercises are optional but help address issues that come up.

- The first exercise is about checking in on yourself - your thoughts, feelings, physical state, and coping strategies. The goal is to permit you to feel what you feel and gain awareness and control.

- The book focuses on trauma and the resulting coping strategies like anxiety, depression, addiction, and anger. These strategies start as a way to protect you but become unhelpful.

- Our mind and mental health are connected and rooted in our physical body and brain. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors stem from our brain's interpretation of the world based on our experiences.

- When our brain's responses become problematic, we see the effects through avoidance, anger, substance use, self-sabotage, etc. These responses make sense as the brain's attempt to protect us from perceived threats.

- The brain stores information about adverse experiences to try and avoid them in the future. The resulting responses can be adaptive or maladaptive. The brain isn't trying to cause trouble but its protective responses can.

- Understanding how the brain works and rewiring problematic responses help improve mental health and coping. The brain can be retrained to perceive situations differently and respond healthier.

• The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the front part of the brain that controls thinking, problem-solving, and social skills. It is the last part of the brain to develop fully, in the mid-20s.

• The PFC is connected to the limbic system, which processes emotions, and the brainstem, which controls arousal and the fight-or-flight response. These connections influence how the PFC functions.

• The amygdala, in the limbic system, associates emotions with memories. It stores episodic-autobiographical memories (EAMs), personal life events, and emotional reactions. The amygdala attaches strong emotions to memories, so we remember them, for better or worse.

• The brainstem controls vital functions like breathing and heart rate. It detects threats and triggers the fight-or-flight response, flooding the brain with chemicals that activate the PFC. This can lead to irrational "survival" reactions to non-life-threatening events.

• The human brain is wired for storytelling. We constantly weave narratives to make sense of the world, even in our dreams. Storytelling is an evolutionary mechanism that allows humans to share information, bond socially, and understand each other.

• The brain has a default mode or resting state. When not focused on a task, the brain is in default mode, awake but resting. Researchers have mapped the neural circuits activated in the default mode, many involving memory, emotions, and social cognition—all of which contribute to storytelling.

• In summary, the human brain has evolved sophisticated connections between thinking, memory, emotion, and arousal that promote storytelling to navigate a complex social world. The content and the act of storytelling are biologically embedded in human cognition.

Here's a summary:

- Our brain's default mode is storytelling. When our brain is at rest, it creates stories. This can be useful for rehearsing and planning, sharing information with others, and holding more information than our prefrontal cortex alone can handle. However, it can also create problems when we start believing stories that aren't true.

- Brains crave certainty and will rationalize to support pre-existing beliefs. But brains are also adaptable. As evidence, in 1895, moviegoers panicked upon seeing a film of a moving train, but today we understand the difference between representations and reality. We have to train our brains to discern actual threats.

- Feeling defensive, combative, panicked, or shut down in stressful situations is a normal survival response. The amygdala hijacks the prefrontal cortex, eliminating rational thinking. This "duck and cover" response is helpful in real emergencies but can activate in perceived threats too. We must improve our "stimulus discrimination" by determining actual vs. perceived threats.

- Our responses are based on past experiences, especially traumatic ones. The brain activates the same pathways, so a stimulus resembling a past trauma can trigger a strong reaction. But we can retrain our brains through conscious effort.

- Pay attention to triggers by identifying emotions, their intensity, symptoms, and circumstances when reactions happen. Look for patterns over time. Keeping a mood-tracking diary or app can help determine triggers.

- A trigger is anything that causes an emotional reaction or response. Some triggers, like anxiety around public speaking, are known, but others are harder to identify. Tracking reactions and circumstances can reveal motivations.

- Trauma is an event that happens outside our understanding of how the world should work. It causes problems with coping that affect other areas of life.

- Many events can be traumatic, including accidents, injuries, illnesses, losses, abuse, bullying, etc. How traumatic an event is depends on the individual and their experiences.

- Roughly 50-75% of people experience trauma. 8% develop PTSD. But many more are affected in less diagnosable ways.

- Trauma causes a physiological "amygdala hijack" - our threat detection center takes over. This can happen to varying degrees.

- Usually (about 2/3 of the time), people recover from trauma within three months as the amygdala calms down. But in about 1/3 of cases, people develop PTSD - they don't recover and remain in a state of stress and hypervigilance.

- Several factors make PTSD more likely, including the severity of the trauma, prior trauma, lack of support, substance use, demographic characteristics, and lack of ability to talk about the trauma.

- The brain's ability to process trauma in the first 30 days is critical. People need time, space, and social support to make sense of the trauma. Without this, PTSD is more likely.

- Ongoing or repeated trauma, or lack of ability to heal due to life demands, can also lead to PTSD as the brain stays in survival mode.

The key points are that trauma affects most people, but a minority develop long-term PTSD. The brain's initial response, available resources, and ongoing stresses are all factors in developing PTSD. Connecting to others and having time to process events can help prevent PTSD.

- Trauma responses happen when our brains have trouble processing traumatic experiences. This can lead to symptoms like constantly being on alert, avoiding trauma reminders, intrusive thoughts about the trauma, and negative feelings.

- Not all trauma responses meet the criteria for PTSD. But they can still seriously impact your life. Common symptoms include:

- Reliving the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, or strong emotional reactions to reminders

- Avoiding reminders of the trauma through distraction, detachment, loss of interest in activities, etc.

- Physical symptoms like sleep issues, health issues, substance use, etc.

- Emotional issues like anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, etc.

- Trauma responses can sometimes be misdiagnosed as other issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. The correct diagnosis and treatment is essential.

- Even without trauma, our brains can develop unhealthy habits and ways of reacting that make life more complicated. These habits are hard to break because our brains like familiar patterns. They can still involve memories and emotions being linked, even if not as intensely as with trauma.

- The key to "unfucking" our brains is learning to break these unhealthy patterns and make new, healthier connections and responses. This applies to trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles. The brain is adaptable, so change is possible.

Patterns of behavior can become addictive and hard to break. For example, if you grew up in a household where expressing emotions was discouraged, you likely learned to avoid talking about your feelings at an early age. Even though this wasn't traumatic, it became an ingrained habit and way of interacting with others. Years later, this pattern can persist and be frustrating for romantic partners who want you to open up emotionally.

The good news is that these patterns, while customary, are easier to change than those stemming from trauma. Recognizing the origin of the behavior and making a conscious effort to change it can be very effective. With work, these patterns can be "rewired" by creating new neural pathways in the brain.

Loving someone with a history of trauma can be challenging. It's important to remember two things:

1. This is not your battle to fight. You cannot force someone else to heal or get better. They must do the work themselves.

2. Supportive relationships can help with recovery and healing. Ask how to support your loved one, set appropriate boundaries, and care for yourself. Love and accept them as they are while also encouraging their progress.

"Unfucking" your brain involves cleaning out old wounds and the resulting unhealthy patterns. Emotions are meant to last only around 90 seconds, but we prolong them by ruminating, telling stories about events, and avoiding triggers. To heal, we must face motivations, process emotions, and find new ways of thinking and behaving. Rumination and avoidance are attempts to regain control but only worsen the situation.

To summarize, recognizing unhealthy patterns, rewiring your brain with new habits and ways of thinking, facing difficult emotions instead of avoiding them, and finding support from others can all help to "unfuck" your brain. The process takes work but leads to excellent health and happiness.

Here's a summary:

- Emotions are meant to last only 90 seconds. They are signals that something needs our attention.

- We often either ruminate on emotions without taking action or avoid them altogether. Both make our mental health issues worse.

- Sitting with anxiety for a few minutes helps retrain your brain so the feeling won't last forever. You can journal, breathe, or do another activity. This enables you to get over the feeling faster than avoiding it.

- Putting ice on your skin disrupts anxious thoughts and impulses. Squeezing an ice cube helps redirect your focus. For self-harm urges, place ice on the area you usually injure. This serves as an alternative to harming yourself.

- The key is learning to ride the wave of emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them. Attend to the emotion, take action if needed, then let the feeling subside. Don't avoid or ruminate.

- This skill takes practice but gets easier over time. The more we face feelings instead of avoiding them, the less frightening they become.

Here is a summary of the information:

- The brain can be retrained through a framework of safety and stabilization, remembrance and mourning, and reconnection.

- Safety and stabilization involve regaining a sense of safety and control over your body and reactions. This is the hardest part, but it must come first.

- Remembrance and mourning involve processing your trauma story and its associated emotions. This can be done through therapy, support groups, journaling, etc.

- Reconnection means reclaiming your life and not letting the trauma control you. It means finding meaning and purpose.

- To achieve safety and stabilization, engage in activities that activate the prefrontal cortex to override the "fight, flight, freeze" response. This includes coping techniques like:

- Coping cards: Create index cards with mantras, facts about anxiety, grounding exercises, or images that help you feel better. Carry them with you and flip through them when you feel panic rising.

- Grounding techniques: Focus on sensations, deep breathing, etc., to bring yourself into the present moment.

- Practice the techniques when you feel reasonable to access them when you're not. Repeated practice helps make them second nature.

- Have a support system that understands your situation and can help remind you of your coping skills.

- Simple coping skills for times when panic hits suddenly are also helpful, like carrying a talisman, saying a mantra, etc.

The key is practicing and rewiring your reactions through repetition. It will take time but repeated use of coping skills and facing triggers in a controlled setting can help overcome them.

• Grounding techniques help people manage emotional distress by focusing on the present moment. When people are triggered, their brains can relive traumatic memories, causing pain. Grounding helps shift the focus back to the present.

• Mental grounding uses thoughts and words to remind yourself of the present moment. Examples include describing your surroundings, repeating a mantra, listing categories like favorite movies, or reviewing your schedule.

• Physical grounding uses sensory stimulation to focus on the present. Examples include noticing your breathing, walking mindfully, touching objects around you, eating slowly and mindfully, getting a massage, hugging someone, etc.

• Soothing grounding uses visualization and planning pleasant activities to induce a calming state of mind. Examples include picturing a peaceful place, planning an enjoyable treat like a hot bath, looking at photos of loved ones, etc.

• Mindfulness meditation is focused attention on the present moment, usually by focusing on your breathing. It's normal for many distracting thoughts to arise. Gently bring your focus back to your breath when this happens. With regular practice, mindfulness meditation can help reduce distressing and distracting thoughts.

• Asking others for help and support with grounding and meditation can help. Share techniques that work for you, and try methods that others recommend. A therapist or counselor can also help guide you.

• Grounding, meditation, and mindfulness take practice. Don't get discouraged if it feels difficult or unnatural at first. With regular practice, these skills can become very helpful for managing distress and focusing your mind.

- Disrupting the default mode network in our brains helps stop anxiety and panic. Initially, we thought only external distractions could do this, but internal techniques like mindfulness also work.

- Meditating or using other strategies when feeling anxious is difficult but essential. The stories our brains tell during anxiety often make the experience worse. Remind yourself that physical symptoms are just a biochemical response, not reality.

- Keep breathing consciously and steadily. This helps counter the chemical imbalance causing anxiety. Meditation releases chemicals that counter anxiety and stress.

- Treat random thoughts and bodily sensations like any other thought. Notice them but don't react. Only respond to real needs and pain. Have someone prompt you to notice your thoughts and relax your body.

- Prayer is talking to yourself or something greater about your needs and desires. It helps ground us and makes us more aware of our inner experiences.

- Music is primal and releases dopamine. Create playlists for relaxation and empowerment to listen to when anxious.

- Practice self-compassion by speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding. Ask how you would treat a friend in the same situation. Self-compassion builds inner strength and drives self-improvement.

- Use positive self-talk and mantras to overcome negative, anxious thoughts. Remind yourself the anxiety will pass, and you will feel better. You have overcome fear before and will again.

- Exercise releases endorphins that block pain and increase positive feelings. Find an exercise you enjoy, whether intense or gentle. Even taking a walk outside helps.

- Get outside in the sun. Sunlight increases vitamin D and serotonin, giving a boost without medication.

- It's hard to feel bad when you're in the sun. Sunlight improves your mood. Use a light therapy lamp if you live where there's little sun.

- Coping skills are essential before sharing your trauma story. Only share when you feel ready and with someone who can support you.

- Writing or journaling about your experiences can be healing. You can write letters to people involved, your future self, or use writing prompts.

- Telling your story, reframing your story, and finding meaning are ways to heal. Your account may change as you share it and gain new perspectives. Look for helpers and lessons.

- Reconnect with yourself and others when you feel ready. Don't let others pressure you into reconnecting before you want to. Use coping skills to feel safe.

- Forgive yourself and others. Picture yourself and others as children to build compassion. Forgiveness is vital to healing.

- Build new relationships with clear boundaries. Let go of relationships that don't support the new you. Have a robust support system.

The summary outlines coping strategies, ways to share and reframe your story, how to reconnect and build healthy relationships, the importance of forgiveness, and maintaining boundaries. The key message is to go at your own pace, use skills to feel safe, gain new perspectives, and surround yourself with support.

Here's a summary:

- Surround yourself with people who support you in setting boundaries. Ask yourself questions to understand your limits better and determine if they need to be adjusted.

- There are several treatment options for mental health issues:

1. Traditional talk therapy, especially with a licensed therapist, can be beneficial. Look for someone trained in the type of therapy and issues you need help with.

2. Allopathic medications: Medications can help alleviate symptoms but should not be the only line of treatment. They can have significant side effects and risks of overmedication. But used correctly, they can be a helpful tool. The goal should be to determine and address the root causes of the issues.

3. Naturopathic medications: Herbal supplements and natural remedies can be helpful, but you have to be careful about quality and interactions. Research to find high-quality, science-backed options, and talk to your doctor.

4. Complementary treatments: Things like meditation, yoga, journaling, and so on. These self-help strategies, combined with professional treatment options, can be very beneficial for both alleviating symptoms and promoting long-term wellness.

The key is using a balanced, tailored approach based on your unique situation and needs. Relying solely on medications or supplements is rarely the answer. Professional guidance, self-help strategies, lifestyle changes, and coping skills are all part of the journey to better mental health and wellbeing.

• Herbal supplements and food support can be effective for some people, but it's important to find high-quality products and consult experts. The author had a bad experience with low-quality kava but later succeeded with guidance from herbalists and naturopathic doctors.

• Complementary therapies like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and chiropractic care support the body's healing ability. They can help reconnect the mind and body after trauma. Energy healing techniques like reiki and reflexology use the idea that the body operates on energy frequencies that can be tapped into for healing.

• Biofeedback, neurofeedback, and alpha-stimulation treatments use electronic monitoring to help people learn to control automatic responses. Neurofeedback helps people learn to manage brain responses by playing a video game that can only be completed by keeping brain waves in an optimal zone. Alpha stimulation stimulates alpha brain waves to induce a relaxed yet alert state.

• Diet and nutrition changes can help support mental health and stress resilience. The body functions best on a diet of whole, unprocessed foods humans have eaten for centuries. Consulting a nutritionist or naturopath can help determine each individual's proper diet and supplements. Limiting sugar, increasing protein and healthy fats, and staying hydrated are good strategies for improving mood and mental clarity.

• The critical message is that many complementary and alternative strategies beyond talk therapy and medication can help improve mental health and support healing from trauma. An integrated approach combining Western medicine and natural treatments may benefit the most. But it's important to find trusted and qualified practitioners to guide you.

- Eat healthy 85% of the time and enjoy treats 15% of the time. This helps maintain good health and functioning.

- Avoid processed and industrialized foods as much as possible. Avoid foods with labels. The more processed a food is, the less recognizable it is to your body.

- The gluten-free movement is more about the genetic modification of wheat than gluten itself for most people. Avoid gluten and GMOs when possible. Replace wheat flour with coconut or almond flour. Try einkorn wheat flour as an alternative.

- Many people who can't tolerate dairy do fine with raw milk. Try raw milk to see if you take it.

- Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose. They are bad for your body. Stevia is an excellent calorie-free sweetener option.

- If you suspect a food is making you feel bad, eliminate it for 21 days and see how you feel. Re-introduce it and notice any differences. Your body will indicate what it needs.

- Peer support helps enormously in wellness and recovery. Someone with similar life experiences has empathy and understanding that others may lack. Consider peer supports like recovery coaches, sponsors, family partners, or systems navigators.

- Natural supports like family and friends provide love and support. Accept help from natural supports; it takes strength to accept the use.

- Choosing the right treatment provider involves getting recommendations, asking questions, finding the right fit, and matching a provider's style/worldview to your own. Have clear goals and switch providers if goals aren't being met. Treatment should help you process, heal and move forward.

- Life today lacks calmness and space to think. Many health issues may stem from adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress. The body expresses tension through exhaustion, aches, skin issues, etc.

- The brain, especially the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, controls the hormonal and nervous systems and, ultimately, the body's stress response. Managing stress better can help cope with its effects.

- Anxiety is a long-standing human condition, not just due to modern life. It ranges from unease to distress to panic and is felt physically and mentally. Its purpose is to demand your attention to a perceived threat. It's meant to make you feel off balance so you address the threat.

- Anxiety causes intense physical and mental symptoms that demand attention. It is often a default mental state for those with trauma.

- Common symptoms include excessive worry, irritability, irrational fears, trouble sleeping, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, stomach issues, etc. You may have an anxiety disorder if these symptoms interfere with your life.

- You can assess your anxiety levels using a scale like the OASIS. Scoring higher indicates more severe anxiety. Anxiety disorders are pervasive, affecting up to 18% of adults.

- Anxiety is related to but different from stress. Stress has external triggers, while anxiety is an internal response. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety. The book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" explains the relationship.

- Anxiety is an evolutionary survival mechanism. The hormones norepinephrine and cortisol prepare your body to respond to threats. But in anxiety disorders, the body perceives threats that aren't there.

- You can't will yourself out of anxiety, but you can take action to manage symptoms. Exercises like deep breathing, distraction, and naming your stress can help now. Long-term, you can work to become more optimistic.

- Optimism involves viewing bad events as temporary and specific rather than permanent and pervasive. The optimistic also view successes as reflective of themselves, not circumstances. The "Learned Optimism" test assesses these tendencies. You can train yourself to become more confident over time.

- Take action by challenging negative thoughts and reframing them more optimistically and realistically. This can help reduce anxiety and build resilience.

The summary outlines anxiety's key characteristics and causes, distinguishes it from stress, and provides strategies for managing and overcoming fear through increasing optimism and challenging negative thoughts. Please let me know if you want me to clarify or expand on any summary part.

- Anger is an emotion, an automatic response that helps protect us from harm. It involves activation in the amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray areas of the brain.

- Anger responses vary between cultures, demonstrating they are partly learned. Some cultures explicitly teach people how to handle anger and negative emotions. In contrast, Americans often see anger as applicable and a positive force for change.

- Common ways of talking about anger in American culture imply that anger controls us rather than the other way around. This contributes to the perception that offense requires retaliation.

- Anger itself is neither good nor bad. It is an emotion that provides information to help us make decisions. It can be useful when protecting us from danger but needs to be more helpful in other situations.

- There are many theories why anger seems more prevalent now, including being over-distracted and overstimulated, living in crowded environments, and having constant access to information. However, anger is sometimes more prevalent in other cultures with similar factors.

- Cultural values and rules significantly impact how anger is expressed. In some cultures, people are taught how to manage anger and negative emotions from an early age. In contrast, Americans often struggle to describe feelings and see anger as an exception that requires action.

So, in summary, anger arises from an automatic response in the brain but is also shaped by learning and culture. How it is perceived and expressed depends significantly on the values and beliefs about anger in a particular culture. Anger provides valuable information, but handling it determines whether it leads to helpful or unhelpful outcomes.

Our emotions, including anger, are generated in the amygdala, the emotional center of our brain. Positive emotions encourage us to continue an activity, while negative emotions signal that something needs to change.

Anger triggers our fight-or-flight response. Feeling angry is normal, but losing control of anger is unhelpful. Uncontrolled anger causes health issues and damages relationships.

Anger is a secondary emotion triggered by hurt, unmet expectations, or unmet needs (the AHEN model). Understanding the root cause of your anger helps diffuse it. Evaluate whether the reason is legitimate and how best to address it while minimizing harm to yourself and others. Talking to a counselor or trusted friend can help gain perspective.

Practically everyone experiences addiction at some point. Addiction was initially defined as cravings plus compulsive behavior. We now know addiction is a complex brain disease involving memory, motivation, and reward circuitry. Addiction causes changes in the brain that persist long after a substance is stopped.

Recovery requires changing thoughts and behaviors. The most effective treatments address the biological, psychological, and social contributors. Loved ones should offer compassion and support. Blaming or shaming the addict worsens outcomes. Understanding the many causes of addiction fosters empathy and helps motivate the addict to keep trying.

• Addiction involves compulsive behavior, impaired control, persistence despite harm, and craving. It can include substances or behaviors.

• Addiction is complicated, involving the brain's pleasure centers, the anticipation of use, and dopamine signals. Some people are more prone to addiction. The neurobiology of addiction is complex.

• Addictions exist on a spectrum from mild to severe. Some allow functioning; some do not. They can isolate us or create barriers. The key is when addiction becomes the primary relationship.

• Addictions often arise from trauma, lack of safety, and using coping mechanisms that get out of control. They fill a need but then take over. Many stem from being sensitive to society's problems but unable to address them.

• Treatment options include abstinence-based approaches like 12-step programs or SMART Recovery and harm reduction approaches. Abstinence is best when medically necessary or desired. Harm reduction includes managing use or substituting less harmful options.

• Harm reduction is sound when abstinence is impossible (e.g., food addiction) or not desired (e.g., sex addiction). It includes managing behaviors and limiting harm. Some habits, like crack cocaine, likely require abstinence, while others may allow moderation or substitution.

• Detox is not treatment but addresses medical issues. Some addictions require medical detox for safety. After detox, treatment, and recovery can begin through various programs. Harm reduction detox, using less harmful substances, is controversial but helps some.

• Overcoming addiction barriers like unpleasant detoxes can help in pursuing recovery. There are many options, so people can find what works for them. The key is addressing the underlying causes of the addiction through coping skills, relationships, and meeting core needs.

- While free or low-cost treatment options exist, they do not cover lost wages, childcare, etc., during treatment.

- Harm reduction is becoming more common as an alternative. It focuses on managing addiction and trauma simultaneously.

- The author believes addiction often replaces relationships and coping skills. Treatment should focus on underlying issues first before eliminating the habit.

The author suggests the following harm-reduction strategies:

1. See addiction as replacing relationships. Be mindful of why you're engaging in the habit and how it's impacting you and others. This can make it harder to continue.

2. You're in control of yourself. Recovery will only happen if you want it. Consider what you want for yourself.

3. It's easier to start a new healthy habit than stop an old unhealthy one. Add new coping skills and relationships. Pay attention to how those make you feel vs. the addiction.

4. Sobriety is a spectrum. Choose what works for you, whether abstinence or moderation. You can reevaluate as needed. But accept the consequences of your choices.

5. Stop making excuses and rationalizing. Take accountability for your actions and choices regarding your addiction. Be honest with yourself.

6. Identify triggers like HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). Pair awareness of triggers with accountability.

7. Forgive yourself for mistakes and imperfections. Have self-compassion. This can increase accountability and responsibility.

8. Forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiveness is for you, not them. It will help you set boundaries and have honest conversations.

9. Expect mistakes and imperfections. Learn from them. Look at what you can do differently next time. Accepting mistakes takes bravery.

Action step:

  1. Make a list of things you can say "yes" to, not as replacements but in addition.

  2. Start expanding your life again.

  3. See what shifts and what you need less of.

The author argues that "depressed" is used too casually and indiscriminately in everyday language. True clinical depression is a much more severe condition, unlike feeling sad or upset over life events. Depression is a biochemical disorder that involves an inability to experience pleasure and joy. A combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers causes it.

The symptoms of depression include:

- Anhedonia: Inability to feel pleasure

- Low energy and fatigue

- Chronic pain

- Difficulty concentrating

- Feeling worthless or guilty

- Sleep problems

- Suicidal or morbid thoughts

- Changes in appetite and weight

- Irritability, anger, and difficulty coping

There are many treatment options for depression, including therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and addressing underlying trauma. The author argues that treating unresolved trauma and giving yourself space to grieve can help prevent depression or aid recovery. Suffering is an essential part of the healing process after traumatic events. Not allowing yourself to grieve can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

The author encourages the reader to think about the parts of life they have lost to depression and want to regain. This can be the first step to recovery and reclaiming your life from depression. Overall, the key message is that depression is a real medical issue, not a character flaw, and there are many ways to improve.

- Grief is a natural reaction to loss that often involves deep sorrow and pain. It is a physical and emotional burden.

- There are many types of complicated grief, including anticipatory, disenfranchised, delayed, and displaced.

- Common platitudes offered to grieve people, like "time heals all wounds," "it's for the best," or "stay strong," are not helpful and can be hurtful.

- Better things to say to someone grieving include:

- I'm so sorry for your loss.

- This must be a harrowing time.

- Please let me know if there's any way I can help and support you.

- It's okay to feel whatever you're feeling. I'm here for you.

- Good ways to support someone grieving include:

- Listen to them openly and without judgment. Validate their experiences.

- Offer specific and practical forms of help and support. Ask what they need.

- Give them space and time. Don't nag them or make them make difficult decisions.

- Sit with them in their pain. Acknowledge and honor their grief.

- Be aware of and avoid cultural biases about grief and loss. Meet them where they are.

- The grieving process takes time. While the pain may become less intense, we continue to miss and honor those we have lost. Healing looks different for everyone.

Reframe narratives to highlight redemptive or hopeful elements. Focus on resilience and strengths,

not just suffering. Acknowledge the complex realities of people's situations. Honor the grief of forgotten

grievers impacted by the loss.

Take action through ceremony and honoring grief. Humans crave ceremonies to mark life's events.

Create your traditions to fill gaps in cultural practices. Tap into symbols, story, music, and

connection. Dismiss unhelpful information from your fear-based "amygdala neighbor."

The new normal: Things improve, though imperfectly. Your relationship with trauma changes; it no

longer fully controls you. Triggers may remain, but you make peace with your trauma. Take helpful

information and ignore the rest. Say thanks for sharing, then dismiss the rest and live your life.

Recommended reading:

- Addiction memoirs and workbooks

- Books on anxiety, depression, anger, and mood disorders

- Books on grief and loss

- Books on relationships and communication

- Books on self-compassion and mindfulness

- Books on trauma and recovery


- Information on brain, trauma, cognition, and emotions

- Descriptions of anxiety, autonomic dysfunction, anchoring effect

- Effective treatments for PTSD

- Relationship between gut bacteria and brain

- Role of sound and listening in human history

- Seminal work on trauma and recovery

Here is a summary of the sources:

Ates: Bear & Company, 2015. This book provides an overview of trauma treatment options.

Miller, George A. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. 101, no. 2 (1955): 343–52. This article discusses the limits of human cognitive capacity.

Mitchell, Jeffrey Diplomate T, and American. “TROUSSE PSYCHOTRAUMATIQUE DE DIAGNOSTIC RAPIDE.” 2008. This source describes a model for rapid trauma assessment.

Pessoa, Luiz. "Emotion and Cognition and the Amygdala: From 'What Is It?' to 'What's to Be Done?'." 2010. This article reviews the role of the amygdala in emotion and cognition.

Phelps, Elizabeth. "Human Emotion and Memory: Interactions of the Amygdala and Hippocampal Complex." Current Opinion in Neurobiology 14, no. 2 (2004): 198–202. This article discusses the interaction between the amygdala and hippocampus in emotion and memory.

Porges, Stephen W. The Polyvagal Theory: New Insights into Adaptive Reactions of the Autonomic Nervous System. 76, no. Suppl 2. This article proposes the polyvagal theory regarding regulating the autonomic nervous system.

Stevens, FL, et al. "Anterior Cingulate Cortex: Unique Role in Cognition and Emotion. - PubMed - NCBI." 2007. This review discusses the role of the anterior cingulate cortex in cognition and emotion.

Tulving, Endel. "Episodic and Semantic Memory" (1972). This article distinguishes between episodic memory and semantic memory.

Markowitsch, HJ, and Staniloiu A. “Amygdala in Action: Relaying Biological and Social Significance to Autobiographical Memory. - PubMed - NCBI." 1985. This review discusses the role of the amygdala in autobiographical memory.

Judith. "Section 1: Foundations of the Trauma Practice Model 13 6. Tri-Phasic Model (Herman, 1992)." 2005. This source describes a tri-phasic model for trauma treatment.

Junger, Sebastian. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. United States: Twelve, 2016. This book discusses the human need for community and belonging.

Lehrer, Jonah. How We Decide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. This book explores the cognitive processes involved in decision making.

Levine, Peter A. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma - the Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, U.S., 1997. This book proposes a somatic approach to healing trauma.

Levine, Peter A., and Maggie Kline. Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents' Guide for Instilling Joy, Confidence, and Resilience. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, U.S., 2008. This book guides parents in supporting children's resilience.

Levine, Peter A, and Maggie Kline. Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing: Infancy Through Adolescence. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, U.S., 2006. This book discusses trauma and healing in children.

Levine, Peter A and Gabor Maté. In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, U.S., 2010. This book proposes a mind-body approach to healing trauma.

Lipton, Bruce. The Biology of Belief. Santa Rosa, CA: Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005. This book discusses the role of beliefs in influencing biology.

Marsh, Elizabeth & Roediger, Henry. "Episodic and Autobiographical Memory." 2013 Chapter. n.p., 2013. This book chapter reviews episodic and autobiographical memory.

Mussweiler, Thomas, Birte Englich, and Fritz Strack. "Anchoring Effect." n.p., n.d. This source describes the anchoring effect, a cognitive bias.

National Center for PTSD "How Common Is PTSD? - PTSD: National Center for PTSD." August 13, 2015. This source provides statistics on the prevalence of PTSD.

Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press. The dictionary definitions of "habit" and "post-traumatic stress disorder" were accessed.

Sapolsky, Robert M. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. 3rd ed. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1998. This book overviews stress, stress-related diseases, and coping strategies.

Schiraldi, Glenn R. The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth. Los Angeles, CA: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000. This book serves as a comprehensive guide to PTSD and treatment options.

Taylor, Jill Bolte and Ph. D. Taylor. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2008. This book chronicles a neuroanatomist's experience recovering from a stroke.

Trafton, Anne and MIT News Office. "Music in the Brain | MIT News." December 16, 2015. This news article reports on research regarding how our brains perceive music.

Treatment Innovations. "All Seeking Safety Studies—Treatment Innovations." This source reviews research studies on the Seeking Safety program for PTSD and substance abuse treatment.

Turner, Cory. "This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music: NPR Ed: NPR." September 10, 2014. This news article reports on research regarding how our brains perceive music.

Van Der Hart, Onno, Paul Brown, and Bessel A Van Der Kolk. "Pierre Janet's Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress." 2006. This article reviews Pierre Janet's pioneering work on treating PTSD.

Van Der Hart, Onno, Paul Brown, and Horst, Rutger. "The Dissociation Theory of Pierre Janet." 2006. This article describes Pierre Janet's theory of dissociation.

Van der Hart, Onno. & Friedman, Barbara "Trauma Information Pages, Articles: Van der Hart et al. (1989)." January 1930. This source further describes Janet's work on dissociation and treating hysteria.

Van Der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. United States: Penguin Books, 2015. This book proposes an integrated mind-body approach to healing trauma.

Worrall, Simon. "Your Brain Is Hardwired to Snap." News (National Geographic News), February 7, 2016. This news article discusses factors that contribute to violence and aggression.

Yahya, Harun. Accessed October 3, 2016. This source discusses the role of hormones in the functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

Ch. Four

Bass, Ellen, and Jude Brister. I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Edited by Louise Thornton. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks, 1991. This book provides accounts from survivors of child sexual abuse.

Bass, Ellen, and Laura Davis. The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. 3rd ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. This book serves as a guide for healing from child sexual abuse.

Bounds, Gwendolyn. "How Handwriting Boosts the Brain" - WSJ. (Indiana University), October 5, 2010. This article discusses research on the cognitive benefits of handwriting.

Burdick, Debra E and Lcsw Debra Burdick. Mindfulness Skills Workbook for Clinicians and Clients: 111 Tools, Techniques, Activities & Worksheets. New York, NY, United States: Pesi Publishing and Media, 2013. This workbook provides mindfulness resources for clinicians and clients.

Burns, David D. When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006. This book provides strategies for overcoming panic and anxiety without medication.

Culatta, Richard. "Script Theory." 2015. This source describes script theory, which pertains to sequences of events that become automatic over time.

Davis, Laura, Laura Davies, and Laura Hough. Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 1991. This book guides supporting a partner who is a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Domonell, Kristen. "Endorphins and the Truth about Runner's High." January 8, 2016. This article discusses endorphins and runner's high.

Domonell, Kristen and Daily Burn. "Why Endorphins (and Exercise) Make You Happy - CNN.Com." CNN (CNN), January 13, 2016. This news article discusses the connection between endorphins released

Here is a summary of the sources:

The article "nt Meds for Bipolar and Depression. It Almost Killed Me." describes the author's experience of being prescribed many psychiatric medications, including antipsychotics, for bipolar disorder and depression. The drugs caused severe side effects and nearly killed the author.

Alpha-Stim is a device that provides cranial electrotherapy stimulation, a type of biofeedback treatment. The company's website offers summaries of research studies showing the benefits of CES for various conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

The NPR article "Too Many Children In Foster Care Are Getting Antipsychotic Meds" reports concerns about the high rates of antipsychotic medication use in children in the foster care system. It suggests these drugs are often used for behavior control rather than medically necessary treatment of mental illness.

The book Treating PTSD in Battered Women provides a manual for therapists to use in treating PTSD in survivors of domestic violence. It utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach.

The NEJM study "Effectiveness of Antipsychotic Drugs in Patients with Chronic Schizophrenia" compared several antipsychotic drugs for their effectiveness and side effects in people with schizophrenia. The study found differences in effectiveness and side effect profiles between the medications.

Mayo Clinic provides an overview of biofeedback, a technique using electronic sensors to monitor bodily functions like breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension. By providing this feedback, biofeedback helps people develop greater awareness and control over these functions.

Mayo Clinic defines reflexology as an alternative therapy involving the massage or applying pressure to parts of the ears, hands, and feet to influence other body parts. Practitioners believe these body parts contain reflex points or areas corresponding to every body aspect. describes chiropractic care as a form of alternative medicine focused on diagnosing and treating neuromusculoskeletal disorders. Chiropractors use manual adjustments and manipulations of joints and the spine to relieve pain, improve mobility and function, and help the body heal.

The U.S. News article "What Is Reiki?" explains that reiki is a form of alternative therapy in which practitioners lightly touch or just above the body to activate their natural healing abilities. Reiki aims to create deep relaxation, heal bodily injuries or illnesses, and balance the body's life energy or "qi."

A brief overview of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), a type of crisis intervention designed to mitigate the impact of traumatic events. CISD involves a structured group discussion of the traumatic event and its effects, usually conducted 1-10 days after the event.

Seeking Safety by Lisa Najavits provides a manual for a type of treatment that targets both PTSD and substance use disorders simultaneously. It uses a cognitive-behavioral approach with a focus on coping skills and safety.

Chapters 6 through 10 discuss treatments and coping strategies for specific symptoms, disorders, and situations, including:

- Anxiety: Anti-anxiety medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness and relaxation techniques

- Anger: Anger management training, cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and mindfulness

- Addiction: 12-step programs, cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, medication, mindfulness

- Depression: Antidepressant medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, mindfulness, exercise

- Grief: Grief counseling, support groups

The sources provide overviews of various alternative therapies, coping strategies, and evidence-based treatments for mental health issues and addiction. The material warns against overmedication, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, and emphasizes the benefits of psychotherapy and self-care techniques over sole reliance on psychiatric drugs.

Here is a summary of the topics:

1. Introduction: How trauma and stress can impact our brains negatively.

2. How Our Brains Get Fucked: how trauma and Chronic Stress Can Alter Brain Structure and Functioning. Includes discussion of the fight or flight response, hypervigilance, and emotional dysregulation.

3. How Trauma Rewires the Brain: how the brain's wiring can be changed by trauma resulting in PTSD, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and cognitive distortions.

4. Unfuck Your Brain: steps to rewire our brains healthily, including managing stress, practicing mindfulness, cognitive reframing, journaling, exercise, sleep, and diet.

5. Getting Better: more tools and techniques for retraining your brain, including exposure therapy, EMDR, therapy, and medication.

6. Anxiety: how anxiety impacts the brain and tools for managing stress.

7. Anger: how anger impacts the brain and tools for managing anger.

8. Addiction: how addiction impacts the brain and tools for overcoming addiction.

9. Depression: how depression impacts the brain and tools for managing depression.

10. The Importance of Honoring Grief: why we must allow ourselves to grieve to heal fully.

11. Conclusion: Recognizing a "new normal" after trauma and how to maintain healthy changes.

12. Recommended reading and sources for further information.

13. Acknowledgements.



Did you find this article valuable?

Support Literary Insights by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!