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Isolation and Addiction

Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes because it was pleasurable.

Addiction is a family problem, so the individual with the addiction is not necessarily the most important in the recovery process. The person with the addiction is the center of attention in the family. One of the most perplexing problems in the family is that some members enable the individual with the problem to continue to abuse alcohol or drugs by supplying them with the money to purchase the substance. The enablers believe they are helping the substance abuser by preventing them from living on the streets or illegally getting money. Sometimes, there is a complete denial of the problem. In this context, the word denial means the inability to know that there is a problem.

Characteristics of Codependency

Following are some commonly used characteristics of codependency.

Sometimes the codependent is a father, mother, husband, or wife. The codependent needs or wants certain things from the addicted individual, such as

  1. Wanting to be liked or loved.
  2.  Seeking approval
  3. Believes they can relieve the pain of the substance abuser.
  4.  Needs to protect the person who depends on the substance
  5. Will put their interests aside for the substance-dependent person
  6. The codependent puts aside their own for their future for the sake of the addicted person
  7.  The codependent is driven by the fear of rejection and
  8.  the fear of anger
  9. There is a great need to feel safe in the relationship

It’s important to emphasize that the codependent person is unaware of these behaviors and denies drug or alcohol addiction.

The addictions

The problem with using any of these substances to self-medicate is that, while there is a temporary, good feeling, people feel sick and depressed more than before. For example, after drinking all night, most people feel very ill with their hangovers the next day. Sometimes, people will drink all day. This strategy to self-medicate does not work. And the users are not conscious of the fact that they are self-medicating.

Among the addictions is the opioid epidemic. It has reached terrible proportions. The question is the why of alcohol and drug abuse. One recent factor contributing to drinking and drug abuse was the pandemic, which isolated people in their homes. Drinking and drug abuse became coping mechanisms for loneliness and isolation. People could not go to work. They were often sent home to work on computers connected to the office, creating the environment necessary to spread addiction.

Many young people abuse alcohol and opioids because they feel isolated. But their isolation is no longer because of the pandemic. The problem is that these young people sit in front of their electronic devices. That alone is isolating. That isolation leads to loneliness, and loneliness leads to addiction in young people. There is also increasing depression among young people. It becomes a vicious cycle where these young people feel lonely and abused drugs or alcohol, which causes them to feel more depressed. What is alarming is that this is causing increased suicide among our teenagers.

A contributing factor to the sense of isolation felt both by young and old alike is the decrease in altruism in our culture. Altruism involves acting selflessly for the benefit of others. It can have a meaningful impact on those around you. Altruistic behavior links to many benefits, like improved emotional well-being and physical health. Altruism involves engaging in selfless acts for the pleasure of it. An example of altruism is a person giving their jacket and shoes to a homeless person.

Many have written about a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism. Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive preoccupation with oneself and one’s own needs.

Concern and care for other people’s feelings are lacking in many adult people today. It’s become each man for himself.

Contact Allan N Schwartz at dransphd@gmail.com





Self-Blame, Self-Criticism, and Shame

Self-Blame, Self-Criticism, and Shame

“Self-blame is a cognitive process in which an individual attributes the occurrence of a stressful event to oneself. The direction of blame often has implications for individuals’ emotions and behaviors during and following stressful situations.” 

“Self-blame is common among adult sexual trauma survivors and it is very common among children who grew up in situations where abuse occurred. Guilt is a sign that the person has not completed his or her grief.”

“A distressing side effect of shame, self-blame, and guilt is that it is emotionally exhausting, undermining our sense of self-worth and competency. “

The old saying is, “It takes two to Tango.” I have often said this to clients who blame themselves for everything from their divorce to many other events. To emphasize their cognitive distortion, I’ve even told some individuals, “I know you’re responsible for climate change, the earthquake in Turkey.” It is not meant to be funny. I explain how readily they blame themselves for everything in their lives.

I have worked with patients who entered psychotherapy because of depression over their divorce. These patients included people who were recently divorced. Some divorced long ago. Some blamed themselves for their lost marriages.

In several cases, people blamed themselves for not recognizing problems with their ex-partner when dating. The result was that they were ashamed of themselves and embarrassed by what they saw as an unforgivable error. They were convinced there were warning signs it would not be a good marriage and ignored those signals.

People have an endless capacity to be self-critical because of the unrealistic belief in perfection.

There are many examples of people who were blamed, by their parents, for an entire list of problems at school and in the home and family. Many years ago, one of my patients remembered an argument between his parents. When he asked his mother if the argument was his fault, she said yes. He continued to blame himself for everything that happened in his marriage and among his children.

Perfection is written about in other articles. The fact is that all of us are imperfect. That imperfection leads some people to self-blame for every perceived failure. Feelings of low self-worth, insecurity, and incompetence result from this thinking. Therefore, learning self-compassionate is essential. What is self-compassion? According to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., self-compassion has these three things:

1. Self-Kindness

2. A Sense of Common Humanity

3. Mindfulness

Self-Kindness allows for imperfection and self-forgiveness. We share many of the same things with other people. It is the opposite of the steady stream of criticism that we direct at ourselves. It is the opposite of self-hate which permeates the psychology of too many people.

The question is how to develop self-compassion. The answer lies in what is called “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is focusing attention on the present moment without judgment. Meditation is used to accomplish this. Mindful meditation focuses on living in the present moment while letting thoughts drift away. I encourage the reader to go to the website of Kristin Neff:



Keep in mind that self-compassion includes compassion for others.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

What is now known as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is my area of expertise because I can confidently state that I have it. I am 80 years old. I wasn’t aware that I had ADHD. ADHD explains why my mind wandered in school and when I was reading. I failed in all of my efforts to concentrate. As a result, my grades suffered, and I was thought of as either not very smart by some teachers and other teachers who thought I was lazy because they recognized my intelligence.

I never understood that my social anxiety and avoidance had much to do with RSD. I am confident that RSD accounted for my bouts of depression. I felt so insecure that I could never understand how my wife could select me as a marriage partner and have me as a father of two children. We were married for nearly fifty years until her tragic death from Pancreatic Cancer. I realized ADHD as a mental health practitioner, but only recently learned of RSD. Learning about both conditions has been enormously helpful. That is why I state that:

“Sometimes, What you don’t Know can Hurt You.”

With that in mind, let’s learn about RSD.

Rejection-sensitive dysphoria, or RSD, is when a person feels intense emotional pain related to rejection. The word dysphoria is a strong feeling of pain or discomfort.

People with RSD experience more intense feelings of rejection than we usually consider rejection. The negative feelings that come with RSD are powerful and hard to manage. People with RSD are likely to interpret vague interactions as rejection. They find it difficult to control their feelings and thoughts of rejection.

The factor that makes this even more difficult for these individuals is that they do not know they have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. These people consider themselves unattractive, undesirable, unintelligent, and not worth it for anyone to have them around. If anything happens that they interpret as rejection becomes a further confirmation of their worthlessness.

An important symptom of RSD is emotional dysregulation is the inability to regulate emotions. The feelings are of being overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or even emotionally in pain.

Symptoms of rejection-sensitive dysphoria

As mentioned, the key symptom of RSD is intense emotional pain. That pain usually has to be triggered by rejection or disapproval. However, people with RSD often have difficulty describing what it feels like because it’s so intense and unlike most other forms of pain (emotional or otherwise).

People with RSD often show the following traits and behaviors:

  • It’s easy for them to feel embarrassed or self-conscious.
  • They show signs of low self-esteem and trouble believing in themselves.
  • They have trouble containing emotions when feeling rejected, which is often noticeable in children and teenagers with this condition. Some may react with sudden anger or rage, while others may cry.
  • Some people with RSD may turn their feelings inward. These individuals become severely depressed, and sometimes, it’s mistaken for sudden emotional shifts that can happen with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.
  • They’re often “people pleasers” and become intensely focused on avoiding the disapproval of others.
  • They start projects and tasks or set goals if they think of success.
  • They compensate for fear of failure or rejection by going all-out or striving for perfectionism. However, the downside is that they often experience intense anxiety and may not easily prioritize self-care or downtime.

RSD happens in people with ADHD. It may be linked to other personality and mood disorders. Still, more research is necessary regarding who experiences this issue and how common it is.

If you think you have RSD, it’s essential to see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis of a related condition like ADHD and then to follow up with a mental health provider.

Your provider can recommend treatment options and guide you on what you can do to help yourself as you learn to manage RSD.

The Tragedy of Suicide

The Tragedy of Suicide

Suicide is tragic. It cuts a life short and devastates the family, friends, and loved ones left behind. The children of people who die by suicide are more likely to make a suicide attempt in their lives later. Those who survive a suicide attempt might have a severe disability or other injuries. One of my favorite entertainers was Stephen “tWitch” Boss, a dancer on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show.

People who attempt suicide see no other options in their lives. These people not only believe they have no other options but also want to end the emotional suffering they are experiencing.

People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities are at risk of suicide. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die by suicide. Men often choose deadlier methods, such as guns. Women are more likely to use poison or suffocation from gas or carbon monoxide.

According to the NIH, older men and those 85 and older have the highest risk of suicide. The other group with a high risk of suicide is teenagers.

Teenagers are very susceptible to social media. Bullying occurs on social media, hurling insults at the targeted scapegoat. Such insults included comments about physical appearance, personality, intelligence, and desirability as a friend, among others. The worst comment hurled at these young people is that they do everyone a favor and commit suicide. Filled with despair, they commit suicide.

One of the most effective tools for preventing suicide is to know the warning signs and take quick action to get the person into treatment. A vital warning sign of suicide risk is when somebody talks about suicide. It is a myth that someone’s talk about suicide is only an attempt to get attention.

Additional warning signs include:

  • Withdrawal from usual activities.
  • A change in mood.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Change in sleep patterns.
  • A sudden shift into a good mood from a depressed mood.

That sudden shift in mood can signify that the individual decided to commit suicide.

It is essential to ask the person directly if they are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. There was a commonly held myth that asking the person about self-harm puts the idea into their minds. Most people will answer honestly, and the question will not push a person to attempt suicide.

Finally, if a loved one or friend is in danger, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This free, federally funded service is available to anyone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.

Please send your comments and mail your questions to dransphd@aol.com

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