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chronic back pain

Ten Ways to Treat Chronic Pain Without Opioids


Alternative Treatment Methods For Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as any prolonged pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. It affects more than 100 million Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide.

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) those who suffer from persistent pain spend $600 billion annually on medical treatments and missed employment.

Presently the main treatment for chronic pain is opioid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. With such staggering high numbers of people who suffer with pain and the main mode of treatment as opioids, there is no wonder America has an opioids epidemic.

Origins of Chronic Pain

Pain originates from injuries, inflammation, or nerve disorders (neuropathies and neuralgias). Emotional stress, trauma, and PTSD can also cause chronic pain. Recent research shows the direct correlation between the mind and body. Simply put, unresolved emotional issues further contribute to severe somatic symptoms.

During stressful times our muscles tighten.   And with prolonged periods of emotional distress, tight muscles weaken, become fatigued, and inefficient.

Effects of Chronic Pain

The continuation of intense pain affects us not only physically but also psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Agony is accompanied by feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Constant discomfort is complemented with a desire to be alone. Lingering pain also affects our faith. One might begin to ask, “Why would such a loving God cause so much pain and suffering?”

Relief Can Be Achieved

Chronic pain doesn’t have to be ingrained. There is a life possible without pain ruling your world.

Here is  ten approaches to begin a path of diminished aches and pains without medication; most importantly no opioids.

1. Thought Watching

Pain affects us psychologically. Pain hurts. We want it to go away instantly. That’s a normal reaction unless you’re a masochist.

It is natural for our minds to judge and ruminate about the pain. We dislike it, we think of it as not our friend, and nor do we want it to hang around.

This thought response although normal is counter-productive because most often, pain tells us something is wrong. It says, “pay attention.”

If we ignore the pain, it usually worsens over time. It also contributes to increased anxiety, stress, and depression.

The solution is thought watching or mindful awareness. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. It’s getting curious as if you are seeing/feeling something for the first time. You take on a childlike attitude.

Curiosity teaches us to explore without having an agenda. It sounds counter-intuitive but let go of the goal trying to reduce the pain.

Attune to your pain just as you are experiencing it, right now. Explore what it’s like. Is it tingly, sharp, dull, or mobile? Ask yourself, “What am I noticing right now?” Experiencing your pain as it is in the now provides a more accurate assessment of your pain.

The process of curious focus replaces the old thought record of, “I’m in constant pain.” “This will never go away.” “There is no relief in sight.” And on and on, that begins the spiral deep into the rabbit hole of depression.

2. Adopt a Worldview

Pain affects us socially. Depression sets in and with despair it is common to isolate. Isolation causes a sense of loneliness and that we are the only ones suffering.

You are not alone. Billions of people suffer daily with painful episodes. Having a sense of universality fosters compassion. You are not in this alone. There are others just like you who also suffer.

Visualize the suffering of another. Let it touch your heart. Breathe with it and evoke a sense of compassion. As you feel compassion for others who are suffering, offer yourself that same compassion.

Send loving kindness messages to those suffering and to yourself. “May my pain and sorrow be eased.” “May the pain and sorrow of others be eased.” Visualize the release and relief. Imagine what that would look like and feel like.

The mind is a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage. Your happiness and suffering depend on your imagination, your thoughts, and your actions. Take charge and remind yourself about the possibility of a spacious heart, of love, and of freedom from pain.

3. Diet

Our diet plays a large role in our over-all health. Sugary fares, fried foods and processed/boxed diets yield heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation leading to chronic pain.

Maintain a healthy diet consisting of a variety of bright and colorful vegetables. Choose organic, free-range eggs and organic lean proteins. Consume healthy fats found in avocados, olive oil, wild-caught fatty fish, and nuts. Eat 5 or 6 small meals every 3 hours or so.

Reduce or eliminate all processed foods, added sugars, and grains from the diet. Integrate natural probiotics into the diet to optimize gut flora and reduce inflammation. Good food choices include kimchee, kombucha, and sauerkraut.

4. Moderate Exercise

Exercise is good for the mind and the body. Physical stimulation lowers cortisol levels and releases endorphins, the feel good hormones.

Exercise also pumps oxygenated blood to all your parts including those in pain. The increased blood flow sends nutrients and oxygen for healing and soothing.

Get outside and get moving. You don’t have to move quickly. A slow, moderate walk 20 minutes a day and working up to an hour can help mend your mind and your body.

Yoga is another form of exercise that stretches tight muscles, teaches breathing techniques to ease your tension, and a sense of community. Go get your “Aummmm” in.

5. Social Support

Joining a group gets your mind away from your pain. With the support of others, you know you are not alone; others care, and can offer kindness and compassion.

Getting out of your head to help others eases agony also. Volunteer for a charity you support. Join a sewing, knitting, or quilting group. Take an art class. Join a walking group. Join a women or men’s support group. These are just some ideas. Brainstorm your own and break free from your same routine, isolation, and discomfort.

6. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of purposely being in the moment from one moment to the next. It is the process of allowing body and mind to come to “be” in the present regardless of what is on our mind or how our body feels without trying to change anything.

A 2015 study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found after just four days of consistent mindfulness meditation practice physical pain reduced by 27 percent and emotional pain lowered by 44 percent compared to the placebo group. Such significant findings make for promising treatment for chronic pain.

7. Music

Pleasant, romantic music with harmony and chords has shown tremendous results in reducing pain. Listening to pleasing music triggers the brain’s reward system, releases dopamine and natural opioids, the body’s personal ‘morphine’.

While listening to enjoyable music alleviates your pain, it also boosts your mood, lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety and stress, and relieves muscle tension.

Music therapy is even part of the Chicago Chronic Pain Care Center regime to teach patients how to manage their pain.

8. Massage

Massage therapy is another method to alleviate pain and muscles spasms, and decrease anxiety and increase REM sleep, deep sleep. Massage stimulates your brain to secrete serotonin, the body’s natural way to ease pain and lift your mood. Massage also produces endorphins, the body’s natural opioid to relieve pain and enhance pleasure.

9. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice of inserting thin needles on various points on the body to manipulate the flow of energy.

Robust research concludes the efficacy of acupuncture. Findings from studies have found acupuncture helps to release opioids and other peptides in the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) that improves immune function, regulates metabolism, and controls eating and drinking habits.

10. Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMF)

Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields is the transfer of electromagnetic pulses to the body. The energy exchange penetrates every cell, organ, tissue, and bone. Cellular health and function improves, pain reduces, inflammation returns to normal and energy increases. PEMF has also shown effective for depression and fractured bones.

Different people will have varying results according to their bodily needs. There are many different stimulators and very few doctors knowledgeable of the device. The FDA has approved some PEMF and others can be purchased for home use. You may need to experiment with frequency, strength, wavelength, and the type of stimulator.

Conclusion

This is an exhaustive list of alternative means to alleviate pain. It is impossible to try them all at once.  Pick a few items at a time and find a combination that works for you.

Possibilities are endless, results abound. Keep an open mind, listen to your body, and take small risks.  Try to maintain a diet rich in colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.  Reduce stress with meditation/yoga, moderate exercise, social support, and an attitude of loving kindness and compassion. Experiment with alternative medicine modalities and find the best regime for your daily maintenance.

 

 

 

Diverse Relationships People Friendship Togetherness Connection Rear View Concept

What makes a relationship healthy?

Relationships are hard. They take time, commitment, and consistent work. But when you think about it, anything that we truly care about takes time, commitment, and dedication.

So why would we think relationships would be any different? With what we see on the movie screen, watch in television sitcoms, and read in romance novels; romantic love comes easy, there is no fighting, just blissful, passionate love that sweeps you off your feet. That’s unrealistic.

Back to reality; Great relationships take time, commitment, and dedication.

What do I mean by time?

Time together is essential. Not just time spent text messaging, surfing the web, or spacing in front of the television – spend quality time together. Quality time is creating novel and fun memories.

According to Helen Fischer, novelty pumps dopamine in the brain and fun infuses positive energy. When freshness is generated as a couple, intense feelings of romantic love is fostered.

Touch

Touch is also crucial while spending quality time together. Holding hands, cuddling, walking arm in arm are all ways to increase oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that new mothers exude to their infant and that couples release when affectionate.

Sex

Sex is another way to spend valuable time together. Sex is great for the body, the mind, and the relationship. Pleasant exploratory, sensual stimulation, and orgasm evokes the release of dopamine and oxytocin. The relationship gets a double whammy of deep attachment and a sense of romantic love.

Talking and Listening

Talking about feelings about yourself and sharing your emotions such as joy, peace, anger, and sadness to your partner brings you closer together. Listening with an open heart, open mind and attuning to your partners’ perspective also creates intimacy.

There are several methods to communicate effectively. One is called the imago dialogue. This process emphasizes one person being the sender (talking person) and the other being the receiver (listening person). The sender speaks using “I” statements and talks in small, digestible pieces.

The receiver then mirrors what the sender has spoken. Mirrors means that what you see in the senders’ facial expression, body language, and words are repeated back. The sender then checks in with the receiver to make sure they heard and felt is accurate. If not, then you repeat the step.

Once you have reached a point where the sender has fully grasped what the receiver has said, then the receiver asks, “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.”

The final step is empathy. It is important to imagine how the other person feels and to accurately convey that to the sender. If not, repeat the process.

Finally you can switch. The person who was the sender is now the receiver and vice versa.

What do I mean by commitment?

Commitment means you value the relationship and make it priority. While committing to the relationship, you also commit to zero negativity according to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Zero negativity is threefold.

Be Aware

First, shift your point of view when you notice yourself falling into the trap of criticisms, blames, defenses, demands, or angry outbursts.   Instead of focusing on the other, see your role in the source of your agony.

Personal Responsibility

Take responsibility of your part. Rather than pointing your finger, facilitate change on your part.

Mindfulness and Gratitude

Use your brain to your advantage. Our brains are built for deception. Use mindfulness and gratitude practices to train your brain to focus on the positive and shift your vision to love and attraction. An example may be that your partner doesn’t clean their morning dishes, choose to appreciate the cup of tea they prepared for you instead of the dishes left in the sink.

What do I mean by dedication?

Dedication is having a feeling of strong support and loyalty to the relationship. You are dedicated to the process and journey together. You set guidelines and commit to those rules.

Relationships are difficult but with time, commitment, and dedication to your couple contract you are on your way to a healthy relationship. If the relationship is more work than fun or you become someone you don’t like, then the relationship is unhealthy and may need some guidance.

If you know someone who would benefit from learning more about creating a healthy relationship, please pass along the information.

I am a Licensed Psychotherapist and Mind/Body Performance Coach. I enjoy helping people whether it is for pain management, performance anxiety, and the loss of a loved one or fine-tuning relationships. Relationships include the relationship with you, spirituality/God, family, coworkers, friends and partners. I provide individual, couple, and group coaching and counseling.

April Wright, M.A., LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC96155

www.aprilwrighttherapy.com

april@aprilwrighttherapy.com

 

male female embryo development

Some Women Wear a Strap on to Feel Powerful

A friend of mine told me, “Go to the sex shop that you mentioned in Hollywood and get a strap on.” “What, why? I responded.

He replied, “I was at a bar in Berlin and this woman sat down next to me and we started talking. Later she showed me the strap-on cock she was wearing and told me it made her feel powerful.”

That was an attention grabber; certainly not your typical bar conversation. I then speculated my own sense of power. Am I lacking in my true power potential? Aren’t there other ways to feel powerful? Why a strap-on? Doesn’t that demean the power of my own femininity?

As I contemplated the subject of women and power more, I thought, “Women are just as powerful if not more so than men. I don’t need to act like a man to feel powerful.

It then angered and saddened me to think society, even in the mid 21st century that male culture remains dominant. Do women even know of their true power?

From Dr. Walter Bracklemann’s Sex Therapy class at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), I’ve learned the human anatomy is more homologous than different. In other words, men and women are more alike than we realize.

Sensory Nerve Endings

Women are certainly more powerful in the bedroom. When it comes to female sexuality, women can have eleven different types of orgasms versus men who can only have nine. The clitoris has double the amount of sensory nerve endings versus the penis; 8,000 to 4,000 respectively.

Similar Body Structures

We all start off as generic embryos with the same genital structures. It is not until week eight that hormones begin to develop and differentiate visual distinctions. Male and female body parts form from similar surfaces.

The Genital Tubercle

The homogeneous genital tubercle in the embryo begins development from the same shape. The shaft of the clitoris is the same as the shaft of the penis and the glans of the clitoris is the same as the head of the penis. They both look and function the same but as with all genders, come in different sizes.

The protruding bud enlarges in males due to the presence of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and because of the DNA-binding protein, testis-determining factor (TDF), which is only codified on the Y chromosome.

The bulbs of the clitoris are posterior to the Labia minora and run along each side of the vestibule and urethra. The bulb of the corpus cavernosum is a slight enlargement at the base of the penis that is homologous to the bulbs of the clitoris.


The legs of the clitoris Labia minora (inner lips of the vulva) are homologous to the penile skin. The perineal sponge Labia majora (outer lips of the vulva) are homologous to the scrotum.

The perineal raphe is a visible line found in both females and males. In females, the line appears between the anus and the vulva. In males the line or ridge forms from the fusion of the penis and scrotum. It is visible from the anus, up the midline of the scrotum, and along the shaft of the penis.

The Gonads

The gonads, otherwise known as the reproductive organs either develop into ovaries or testicles.

The Nipples

Most people, regardless of gender have nipples. Some are more sensitive to touch and can reach orgasm with the right kind of sensate focus. The only distinction between male and female nipples is post-pregnancy milk-producing hormones; oxytocin and prolactin.

Our Brains

Women and men have similarities beyond the genitals. Our brains are quite the same contrary to cultural biases. There is the slight variation in size but size does not equate to brain function. Relatedly, size does not matter in the bedroom either.

There is certainly a large variation of brain function, neurological structure, and reaction to different stimuli across human species, but the differences are across individuals not necessarily gender.

Math and Science Abilities

For instance, women are just as good if not better than men when it comes to math and science. Studies have shown that segregated classes where girls are taught math and science in one room and boys are taught the same courses in another, test scores reveal congruent results. It is mostly social and cultural messages related to girls that diminish their confidence in their math and science abilities.

Hormones

Certainly women and men have variations in hormone levels and patterns but ultimately there is no such thing as “female” or “male” hormones. We have the same hormones just at varying levels and during different stages of life.

Summary

Recent studies support gender differences are an old social and cultural myth to diminish and stereotype girls in believing that are less than men. The truth of the matter is that females and males have more similarities than differences. It begins in the embryo with common anatomy, then in our cognitive functioning, and even in our hormones. Women don’t have to wear a strap-on to feel powerful. Power comes from within. It’s time to stop gender stereotyping and embracing feminine power.

References:

  1. You Won’t Believe What This Year’s Sex Trend For Men Is

  2. http://www.vogue.com/article/breathless-karley-sciortino-strap-ons

  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/straight-women-try-strap-ons_us_5728b7c3e4b016f3789389f4

  4. http://www.menshealth.com/health/3-signs-you-started-as-a-girl

  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/busting-myths-about-human-nature/201205/men-and-women-are-the-same-species

  6. http://www.apa.org/action/resources/research-in-action/share.aspx

Happy elderly couple in love enjoying summer day together

How to Prevent Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Rudolph Tanzi, PhD speak at the March 2017 Mind, Consciousness, and Cultivation of Well-being Conference at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Tanzi asked the question, “What can Alzheimer’s teach us about the brain, mind and self?”

Tanzi has diligently worked to utilize funding from private and government sectors to discover many facets of the brain that cause the onsite of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). His research is imperative because contrary to heart disease that is finally on a 14 percent decline, AD is on the rise by 89 percent.

Tanzi and his team now know AD begins fifteen to twenty years prior to symptoms even appear. AD affects 5.4 million patients in the United States and 50 million worldwide. The disease is at an epidemic level. Thus his research is fundamental for the large aging Baby Boomer population and subsequent generations. This article addresses some of Tanzi’s findings and recommendations for maintaining a healthy brain, mind and self.

Genetic Predisposition

Many genetic and environmental factors influence the risk for AD. Tanzi identified many of the pathogenic gene mutations, which pose increased risk of AD. In addition to the gene mutations APP, PSEN 1, PSEN 2, and APOE, amyloid buildup, plague accumulation, brain inflammation, and many lifestyle considerations predict the onsite of AD. Tanzi noted in his presentation that women consist of two-thirds of AD patients due to females being more susceptible to inflammation in the brain than men.

The Brain

The brain is defined as an organ of thought and feeling that serves as the center of the nervous system. The brain begins to decline in cognitive function in almost everyone after the age of forty. AD affects the brain by enhancing cognitive decline in learning, memory, reasoning, and judgment.

The Mind

According to Dan Siegel, M.D. the mind is a cultivation of a “me” (or a self as used in this framework) and a “we” that is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.

The Self

AD takes time and space out of context, which equates to a loss of self that has an individual perception of the world. AD patients aren’t able to absorb new information (short-term memory failure) and consequently lose their sense of self.

Rewrite Genetic Code

The good news is that lifestyle and environmental factors can change genetic code and the risk for AD. Even with genetic susceptibility for AD, many lifestyle factors such as sleep patterns, diet, exercise, stress and trauma levels, intellectual stimulation and social engagement can prevent the disease.

Here is a list of lifestyle recommendations to change your genetic outlook.

Diet

Diet choices impact over-all health, well-being, and risk for many diseases such as Diabetes, Cancer, Cardiac Disease and AD. It is recommended to consume a healthy Mediterranean diet, which includes small amounts of red meat and limited consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Consume a diet rich in vibrant-color vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains and you’re on your way to optimal health.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise surpass lowering susceptibility to AD. It also helps strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower stress levels, increases bone density, and induces turnover in amyloids that cause plaque build-up in the brain. To help ward-off AD, it is suggested to exercise at least an hour a day or if using an app such as FitBit, 10,000 steps a day.

Sleep

Sleep is another important factor to not only help fight AD but also daily stress levels. After the age of forty, it is recommended to have at least 8 hours of sleep nightly. While asleep, your brain clears the plague that causes inflammation, which only happens during delta sleep, our deepest sleep cycle.

Stress

The ability to manage daily stress is imperative not only to help prevent heart disease but also autoimmune diseases and AD. Stress can be managed quite effectively with a daily meditation practice. Studies have shown that meditation changes your gene expression that work against inflammation and creates a healthier default state in the brain. It also counteracts the amyloid affect associated with AD.

Intellectual Stimulation

Learning new things helps you create new synapses and strengthens the ones you already have. So take a class, learn a new language, or read non-fiction.

Gut-Brain Axis

There is a direct correlation between the gut and the brain. Research unearthed that the gastrointestinal system and the composition of the enteric microbiota in the gut directly affect the central nervous system. The central nervous system regulates visceral perception, emotion and stress response. Thus the composition of gut chemicals determines mood, obesity, and controls inflammation in the brain.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that help stabilize the good and bad bacteria naturally occurring in the gut. The stabilization of bacteria helps to increase the immune system, fight off infection, decrease inflammation, and may even reduce bloating and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is recommended to take a minimum of 30 to 100 billion colony-forming units per day for adults. Tanzi stated, he consumes Kefir with his daily breakfast. Kefir is a drink of fermented cow’s milk. Live culture yogurt is another probiotic alternative.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s Claw is a Peruvian medicinal herb found in the Amazon rainforest and tropical jungles of South and Central America. The health benefits of cat’s claw dates back to the Inca civilization. Historically, the herb has been used for inflammation, viral infections, cancer, contraception and to fuel the immune system.

Presently, the bark and roots of cat’s claw is consumed as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and teas to defend against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, parasites, peptic ulcers, leaky bowel syndrome and viral infections (such as herpes and HIV).

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD)

Research supports NAD as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. NAD helps increase cellular energy and prevents premature death of brain cells.

NAD enhances cellular immunity before our genetic codes becomes damaged by various toxins and environmental stresses such as radiation, UV light, ozone, and chemical toxins (including certain pharmaceutical drugs).

It also works as an antioxidant, which protects cells against free radical damage. Finally, NAD stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and other catecholamine production, which has a stimulatory effect. This reaction may potentially increase athletic performance.

A study conducted by Georg Birkmayer, an Austrian medical doctor treated AD patients with NAD. The results showed dramatic results with abstract verbal reasoning, fluency and visual-constructional ability. Furthermore, alertness, cognitive functioning, concentration, and memory improved with a daily dose of 10mg of NAD.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha root is a herbal supplement used traditionally used in Indian medicine known as Ayurveda. The herb improves the immune system, reduces stress levels, treats anxiety, and insomnia. It’s treats arthritic and pain conditions, regulates blood sugar, and prevents and treats certain cancers. Furthermore, ashwagandha restores male fertility, increases physical energy, athletic ability and has remarkable antioxidant properties to slow the normal aging process and in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.

Docosahexaneoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)

DHA and EPA are long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids that reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and the risk of dementia or cognitive decline. Omega-3’s act as anti-inflammatories, protect nerve cells membranes, and function to reduce the production of the β-amyloid peptide, widely believed to initiate AD.

Social Interaction

Research shows that people who regularly engage in social interaction and activity maintain their brain vitality and ward-off dementia and AD. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health discovered that women who maintain large social networks and talk to their close friends and family members daily reduced their risk for dementia nearly in half.

The take away is to move more, learn more, socialize more, meditate more, and sleep more. Your habits based on your lifestyle choices programs gene expression; thus you can modify your genes with your actions and behaviors. So go ahead, get moving with others, learn something new everyday, sit quietly and reflect inward, indulge in an array of colorful vegetables and legumes and have a good nights rest. You are doing your mind and body good all the while slowing the aging process and cognitive decline.

If you’d like to jumpstart your mental, physical, and emotional health, call 310-502-4944 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s start today.

References:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html

http://www.drdansiegel.com/blog/2014/03/17/the-self-is-not-defined-by-the-boundaries-of-skin/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/catclaw

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-ashwagandha.html

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838628/

http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html

couple in love

Neuroscience Demystifies the Neuro-chemical Changes of the Brain in Love

Have you ever drifted into a dreamy thought of someone you recently met? You can’t explain why, but they just pop into your head. You feel a surge of joy, a slight queasiness in your stomach, and your face lights up with each playful thought of your new mate. A rush of neurochemicals stimulates this euphoric behavior.

Is this stage of love fleeting or can long-term committed relationships uphold blissful adoration?

The Stages of Modern Relationships

Whether you identify yourself as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, there are various stages to each relationship. According to research, during the initial meeting, it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you want to move to dating and/or sex and not always in that particular order. During this lustful stage, testosterone and estrogen drive your behavior.

As your attraction deepens and you decide to become sexually exclusive or not, your stress response stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters; adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin.

Throughout this stage, your stress response is activated. Blood levels increase with adrenaline and cortisol, hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. The secretion of adrenaline and cortisol provide that rush of energy, increase in heart rate, sweaty palms, and dry mouth when you suddenly think of or startlingly bump into your new attraction.

Dopamine

The neurotransmitter, dopamine is increased with ‘love struck’ mates. Dopamine stimulates an intense rush of pleasure, triggering desire and reward. A brain on cocaine has the same effect.

“couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” ~ Helen Fisher

Serotonin

Serotonin plays a key role in this early stage of love. Low levels of serotonin explain those constant thoughts of your lover. According to Dr. Marazziti from the University of Pisa, blood samples of couples that claimed to be madly in love for less than six months were comparable to the blood samples of patients who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Furthermore, newly love-struck couples often idealize their partner, magnify their assets and overlook flaws.

“It’s very common to think they have a relationship that is closer and more special than anyone else’s.” ~ Ellen Berscheid

Oxytocin

Next, a couple decides upon exclusivity, engagement, living together or marrying. The attachment of the twosome instigates the powerful hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is released during childbirth and creates the bond between a mother and her child. The chemical is also secreted by both of the sexes during cuddling, hugging, and sex.

Oxytocin is important because couples that exhibit high doses of oxytocin have a strong bond and attachment that can withstand the ups and downs of life. For the release of oxytocin, it takes between 19 and 23 seconds. Thus to ensure your couplehood survives the test of time; hug, cuddle and have sex regularly.

Vasopressin

Finally, vasopressin sets the stage for long-term committed couples. The hormone is released after sex and like oxytocin creates stable bonding with your partner. Vasopressin also creates the actions of devotion and protection.

The stages of a relationship change as do the release of chemicals in the brain. The surge of dopamine in the initial lustful state creates a rush of pleasure that stimulates, even more, desire and reward. Adrenaline causes the physical reaction of sweaty palms, racing heart, and dry-mouth.

Serotonin creates those compulsive, idealizing thoughts of your partner and oxytocin makes for strong bonds. Finally, vasopressin deepens the connection and generates long-lasting love.

Therefore it is possible to love and to be in love with your partner ‘til death to us part.’ Give your loved one a 30-second hug every day to ensure your love lasts.

If your bond is broken, your trust has been shattered, or your connection is lost, couples counseling can help to mend those bonds, build trust again, and create a lasting connection. Call (424) 258-5416 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s start your pathway of change.

No defending when communicating as a couple

Listening Essentials for Healthy Communication

Talking effectively about feelings is an exercise that will strengthen trust and intimacy in a relationship. While talking is important, listening is just as crucial. Talking about and listening to certain events and issues must be presented in a comfortable environment that is committed to certain communication rules and understandings.

The role of the talker is to describe what emotions you are feeling; such as frustrated, angry, hurt, fearful, etc. Attach the emotion to a person, event, and how this affects how you feel about the relationship and about how you feel about yourself. An example is, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen. It makes me feel like you don’t care about my thoughts, opinions, or about me. It makes me feel like I’m invisible, I don’t’ matter, and I’m small.”

Next, explore what this might remind you of from earlier times in your life or previous relationships. For instance, “It reminds me when my father yelled at me as a child and continued to ask me to explain myself. I grew so scared while he yelled that I couldn’t think; my mind went blank. He continued to yell and I continued to retreat.”

Subsequently, explain what you need to help make you feel comfortable. This enables your partner to understand, empathize, and attune to your needs. With continued support from your partner, a loving connection and safe reliance grow.

The role of the listener is to put your feelings and perceptions aside, be fully present, engaged, and attentive. The listener is curious, asks questions, provides reflective statements and acknowledges your spouse’s perception of the event or issue. Another role of the listener is to ensure the four taboos of communication are avoided. They include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

I discussed rule number one, criticism and rule number two, no demands. Criticism and making a demand is a self-interested act that is demeaning and leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The third rule is to avoid defensiveness.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. It is a function to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. Defensiveness usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. The defense protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

The solution is to share your feelings about your inner world that was triggered during the event. Express how it makes you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited. At this point, it is the responsibility of the listener to keep in line with your role and put your feelings and perception aside. With practice, the process will become easier and your relationship will strengthen.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416, email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com, or complete the contact form below and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and intimacy again.

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