Mental Health, Adoption, and Nature v. Nurture

In the field of mental health, there has long been a debate about nature versus nurture. What is more salient to the development of young people? Is it a person's genetic history or the environment of cultivation? Naturally, people find little ease in attempting to answer such questions. These types of queries have puzzled experts in the field of psychology for years.

Such lines of inquiry are attractive for many reasons. Who among us has not had questions about what makes you who you are? We can look to our parents for answers, and we can evaluate the environs of our upbringing. And yet, we can still come away with more questions than answers. This outcome can happen to just about anyone. However, it is especially the case for those who do not have a clear picture of their history, i.e., adopted people.

When probing for a deeper understanding of our existence, many are prone to concern themselves with why they do things a particular way. Others, those contending with mental illness, might try to make sense of their struggles with a sense of urgency. When doing so, the obvious starting point is one's mother and father. Studies frequently conclude that mental illness can run in the family. However, children do not always inherit their parents' mental diseases. Some mental health experts argue that other factors must be the catalyst of psychological struggle.

There are those too who present with mental health disorders, yet do not have a clear link to mental health disorders in their family tree. Making sense of all this is a difficult undertaking. Any attempts at understanding the origins of mental strife are roughly equivalent to disentangling a Gordian knot—unpacking an intractable problem.

Nature v. Nurture

Unraveling what makes you who you are is a trying task for anybody. Unfortunately, when a person hasn't any concrete knowledge about their genetic roots, it is an overwhelming endeavor. Potentially disheartening, too. Nobody perhaps understands this more than the adopted. People who are placed for adoption at birth have little to go on when attempting to get some clarity.

The desire to follow the bread crumbs of one's past is not uncommon for adopted men and women. Such pursuits can be eye-opening experiences. But, they can also reveal aspects of one's early history that are bound to induce pain. There is a fascinating example of adoption that drives this point home. It involves an unexpected discovery that irrevocably changes the lives of three young men living in New York in the 1980s.

This Sunday, CNN is presenting a new documentary shining a spotlight on how the pursuit of knowledge can have ineluctable consequences. We want to be careful here to not spoil or misrepresent the documentarians nor their subjects. So, in the following paragraphs, some basic facts will be put forth to pique your interest. Please prepare yourself for asking some tough questions about the age-old argument of nature vs. nurture.

The environment and our experiences influence who we become, right? Three young men had to face what that means in the wake of a monumental discovery. Robert Shafran, David Kellman, and Eddy Galland all grew up in separate households located within a hundred-mile radius. Then, at the nascent age of 19, they came to discover – by sheer luck – that they share a biological link. Directed by Tim Wardle, Three Identical Strangers shows what follows from a chance discovery. It is a story of joy and is cause for utter outrage.

Three Identical Strangers

By now, you may be asking why would an adoption agency separate the triplets? The answer, a study! A research project, cloaked in secrecy, to settle long-standing theories about the role genetic and environmental factors have on our lives.

Nothing, though, would prove easy or obvious about their stories, which grow darker and more disturbing as “Three Identical Strangers” develops into a shocker," writes Manohla Dargis, the co-chief film critic for The New York Times since 2004. "Puzzle piece by piece, interview by interview, Mr. Wardle fits together a grim story of hubristic doctors and their grotesquely unprincipled enablers who played with human lives in the name of science."

Three Identical Strangers is a lot to unpack, and at times hard to watch. People with experience in adoption and mental health disorders may begin asking themselves new types of questions about their past. The film will give you a first-hand look at the impact adoption can have on a person's life. It will show what can happen to individuals when they are separated, after spending the first six months of their lives by each other's side. It is highly likely that you will never contemplate the nature v. nurture question the same way again.


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Three Identical Strangers premieres on CNN Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 9 p.m. ET.

Adoption-Related Mental Health Treatment

At PACE Recovery Center, we give adopted men the tools to heal from mental health and adoption issues. Mental illness affects many people who are the product of adoption; even those who grow up in loving households face real challenges that can shape who they become.

Adopted individuals can struggle with a fear of rejection and connection; they are at high risk of developing insecure attachment styles which can precipitate anxiety and depression, emotional dysregulation, and substance abuse. Please contact us today to learn how treatment can transform your life and set you on a course toward long-term recovery.

Addiction Recovery Opens Career Doors

addiction recovery

When mind-altering substances are out of a person’s system, and a program of addiction recovery is established, many will ask, “What’s next?” Of course, the answer to that question is purely subjective. What is certain is that whatever people in recovery put their minds to can be accomplished.

Another truism for a good number of people in recovery is that they can’t go back to doing what they did before they broke the cycle of addiction. After undergoing treatment, there are some who find their previous lines of work or study untenable when leading a life in recovery. That’s not to say that there are not sober bartenders, for instance, but it’s not challenging to see why certain types of employment could jeopardize progress.

There are also young men and women in sobriety who have never held down a job. There are others who started college only to have their disease stymie the endeavor. So, with few points to jump off from in life after treatment, it is only natural that young adults will consider working in the field of addiction medicine. Moreover, people in recovery learn early on that to keep what they have they must also give it away—pay it forward. What better way to give back to the addiction recovery community than to help others find serenity, too?

In fact, it is quite common for treatment alums to volunteer their services at the very center that had a hand in saving their lives. Such individuals realize that by staying close to the source of their addiction recovery, they strengthen the foundation of their recovery. Going back home – for many people – is not always the best option following treatment.

Giving Back to The Addiction Recovery Community

Over time, volunteers or just those dedicated to sobriety often decide that the field of addiction medicine is a viable career path. One can be a productive member of society, reciprocate the gift of recovery to other willing people, and safeguard their sobriety in one fell swoop.

As one would expect, working in the substance use disorder workforce will require some education; or, a lot of schooling depending on how far one wants to go. Doctors in recovery, after all, are not unheard of, which is again a testament to the door-opening potential of working a program.

It goes without saying that attending college to become a counselor or a medical doctor will cost a significant amount of money. Except for a small demographic in America, higher education will call for student loans; and, such debts can accumulate quickly. However, we have some excellent news for anyone who is interested in working in the field of addiction recovery and medicine.

The Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program can help addiction treatment clinicians repay up to $75K in student loans, in exchange for a three-year commitment to provide substance use disorder treatment services at National Health Service Corps-approved sites. The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:

The purpose of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program (LRP) (hereafter referred to as the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP) is to recruit and retain medical, nursing, and behavioral/mental health clinicians with specific training and credentials to provide evidence-based SUD treatment and counselling [sic] in eligible communities of need designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

A Career In Addiction Medicine

HSC SUD Workforce LRP participants have a choice between three years of full-time or part-time service. Those eligible will receive funds to repay their outstanding, qualifying, educational loans. One caveat is that those serving in a private facility are not eligible to practice half-time.

Dr. Gabriel Wishik, who works for Boston Health Care for the Homeless, took part in a loan repayment program from the same federal agency, according to MassLive. He points out that such programs do two things: help lure qualified candidates and increase the number of clinicians in a field that struggles to fill positions in many areas. He said, “there is a shortage at every single level in the treatment continuum.”

There are lots of competing career paths. It’s one way to get people into this career,” he said.

People in their first years of addiction recovery who have an interest in working in the field can benefit from looking to the HSC SUD Workforce LRP. At PACE Recovery Center, we encourage our clients to pursue higher education and know that men in their first years of recovery can make excellent substance use disorder technicians and clinicians. In fact, we have current team members who were once PACE Recovery Center clients.

PACE Academy

We understand that that pursuing higher education in recovery can be complicated; university culture, for instance, can put a person’s sobriety at risk. With that in mind, our PACE Academy program helps young men in early sobriety pursue their dreams and protect their sobriety. PACE Academy also provides Certified Alcohol Drug & Alcohol Associate credentialing for those interested in working in the field of addiction medicine.

Please contact us today to learn more about how you can reach your recovery and academic goals at Pace Academy.

Adoption Trauma, Mental Illness, and Addiction

adoption trauma

A study from 2012, appearing in the journal PLOS | ONE, demonstrates an increased risk of lifetime substance use disorders in adopted adults. A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota found that adoptees are at 1.87 times more significant risk of developing a SUD, compared to non-adoptees. The research indicates that this demographic is also more likely to contend with other psychiatric disorders as well.

While the above study is somewhat dated, the findings are as relevant today as when they were first published. Why adoptees are at greater risk often comes down to adoption trauma. According to PsychCentral, “adoption trauma is defined as the shock and pain of being permanently, abruptly separated from one’s family member.” The article notes that this form of trauma can be exacerbated by the “societal expectation that it [adoption trauma] shouldn’t exist at all. The article’s author cites a keen quote on this subject.

Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” –Reverend Keith C. Griffith

It isn’t difficult to grasp some of the struggles that adopted people face. Introspection can lead some individuals to believe that they are unwanted or unloved. The question of where a person came from – the genetic breadcrumb trail – can loom large. Not knowing one’s biological parents can cause distress as people age. If such people don’t have a method of coping with adoption trauma they are at a heightened risk of problems in the future.

Adoption Trauma, Mental Illness, and Addiction

Loss can lead to grief, to anger. Even those who never knew their biological parents can mourn their loss. Internal suffering early in life and into adulthood can position someone to cope with mental anguish in an unhealthy manner. What’s more, adoptees – whose birth parents (one or both) have a history of substance use issues – are significantly more likely to have their own struggles with drugs and alcohol. An unstable adoptive home is also a factor that can precipitate a person developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Research shows that 4.5% of adoptees had drug-abuse problems, compared to 2.9% of people in the general population, Health Magazine reports. Moreover, 8.6% with at least one biological parent who had substance issues, had their own drug problems. The findings – appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2016 – come from data on 18,115 adoptees born in Sweden between 1950 and 1993.

The link between adoption and mental illness often stems from insecure attachment styles. Young people who go into foster care or are adopted, or both, face many uncertainties. They are forced to adapt to many situations. Not knowing what the future holds or where a person will end up, for instance, can wreak havoc on one’s psyche. Insecure attachment styles include:

  • Anxious-preoccupied: a negative view of self and positive view of others.
  • Dismissive-avoidant: a positive view of self and negative view of others.
  • Fearful-avoidant: an unstable fluctuating/confused view of self and view of others.

Insecure, inconsistent attachment styles can result in mental health conditions developing, i.e., anxiety and depression. What’s more, such experiences can bring about unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use. It is paramount that both mental health, and how a person copes, are addressed simultaneously for successful outcomes.

PACE Adoption-Related Treatment

Stigma accompanies both adoption and mental illness. The shame that many adoptees have about their past, the guilt that people have about their mental illness, can stand in the way of seeking help. While challenging, it is still possible to break through stigma and access treatment.

At PACE Recovery Center, we have helped many adopted people find long-term recovery. We offer a track that caters specifically to adopted men who are struggling with mental illness. Led by Brett Furst, M.A., MFTI, our adoption-related treatment utilizes several specialized approaches to help clients address the underlying causes of mental health issues and addiction. Aided by a safe and supportive environment, PACE assists adopted men in fostering healthy, secure attachment styles.

Please contact us today to learn more about our program and how we can help you manage adoption trauma, mental illness, and addiction.

Mental Illness Impacts Physical Health

mental illness

With 2019 underway some Americans are scheduled for their annual medical physical. A yearly checkup for all-things-health is strongly advised, especially for people with preëxisting conditions. The majority of adults know what to expect when they see their primary care physician or PCP for a physical. A trip to the scale is to see if one is overweight, a reflex hammer to the knee, and saying aah. A litany of questions may follow about an individual's physical health, but there is little guarantee that the patient is asked about mental illness. Will your doctor ask if you are depressed or anxious?

Why is inquiring about mental illness significant during an annual physical? Because the mind and body are inextricably linked. Many people may not understand that diseases of the brain can wreak havoc on the body over time. When conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress do not receive treatment—a person's life can take a turn for the worse.

Over the years, researchers have sought to identify a link between mental health illness and poor physical wellbeing with mixed results. However, a new study compares the effect of anxiety and depression on the body to that of smoking and obesity. The latter two are usually a top concern among PCPs, whereas the former couple is not.

Mental Illness May Be Leading Predictors Physical Health Problems

Researchers Andrea Niles, Ph.D., and Aoife O'Donovan, Ph.D., of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, found that patients with high levels of anxiety and depression are at severe risk of physical sickness, according to a UCSF news release. Of more than 15,000 patients, 2,225 suffered from high levels of anxiety and depression. First author Niles and senior author O'Donovan found that such patients are:

  • 65 percent more likely to face heart condition;
  • 64 percent for stroke;
  • 50 percent for high blood pressure; and,
  • 87 for arthritis.

Dr. Niles and O'Donovan observed that people with untreated depression and anxiety face similar risks to experience the above conditions as smokers and obese people, the article reports. The study appears in the journal Health Psychology.

Anxiety and depression symptoms are strongly linked to poor physical health, yet these conditions continue to receive limited attention in primary care settings, compared to smoking and obesity," said Niles. "To our knowledge this is the first study that directly compared anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking as prospective risk factors for disease onset in long-term studies."

Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, the researchers found no associations between high levels of anxiety and depression and cancer. On the other hand, those affected by these issues are exponentially more likely to contend with a headache, stomach upset, back pain, and shortness of breath.

"On top of highlighting that mental health matters for a whole host of medical illnesses, it is important that we promote these null findings,” said O'Donovan. “We need to stop attributing cancer diagnoses to histories of stress, depression and anxiety."

The research highlights the need for PCPs to inquire about symptoms of mental illness. Diagnosing anxiety and depression conditions is the first step toward treatment and recovery.

Orange County Mental Health Treatment

We invite adult males who are struggling with mental illness to reach out to PACE Recovery Center to learn more about our mental health intensive outpatient program (IOP). Our team can advocate for your wellbeing and give you the tools for managing your illness.

We are always available at 800-526-1851, to answer any questions; or, you can submit a confidential online inquiry here.

Contact Us

...