Category Archives: Mental Health

Addressing Complex Childhood Trauma After Adoption

You’ve adopted a child and are ready to make them part of your family. You want to provide a nurturing home, realizing that may have been something that was missing from the child’s life previously. When your adopted child shows signs of trauma, you want to know the best way to help them and to help your family as a unit. Addressing complex childhood trauma after adoption can be challenging but is necessary to guide all members of your family through the healing process.

Childhood Trauma

Some stress in a child’s life can actually help them develop new skills and help their brain to grow. For example, they may be nervous about riding a bike without training wheels for the first time or going to a new school. However, there can be traumatic events in the child’s life that cause their bodies, brains, and nervous systems to adapt in an effort to protect them.

Traumatic events in a child’s life can include neglect, abuse, poverty, separation, bullying, witnessing violence, or erratic parental behavior that is affected by addiction or mental illness. Being in the child welfare system, being placed in foster care, or being placed with an adoptive family can become another traumatic event for a child.

Trauma can result from a stressful experience that overwhelms the child’s natural ability to cope. Just as in adults, the events can cause a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The trauma can result in physical changes to the body, including a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure. It can also cause changes in how the brain perceives and responds to the world, even when that world now involves a loving father reaching out to include the child in their new family.

Your Child’s Behavior

It can be unsettling and frustrating as a parent when your child “acts out.” It is important to remember that the child’s trauma could result in distrusting or disobeying any adults, feeling disconnected from reality, and increased aggression. Children who are in danger engage in these behaviors to protect themselves. Even after they are in a safer environment, living with a loving adoptive family, their brains won’t necessarily recognize that the danger has passed.

Your child’s behavior may be a result of that learned response to stress. It may take time for the child’s brain and body to learn how to respond in more appropriate ways when they are in a new, safe environment. They will need to learn that they can relax and that their “fight or flight” response is no longer necessary.

Addressing Trauma After Adoption

Children are resilient. With your help as their adoptive father, they can recover from complex childhood trauma. Learn as much as you can about any trauma they may have experienced. Then take the following steps to address the trauma, to help everyone heal.

Identify Trauma Triggers. Be aware of whether something you say or do, or something in your home that may seem harmless, could actually be triggering your child’s trauma reactions. Watch for patterns of behavior or reactions and note what seems to make your child more anxious or results in an outburst. Take care to help your child avoid these triggers until you are able to help them process their trauma and heal.

Be available, emotionally and physically. While it may be difficult, given the child’s potentially aggressive behavior, let them know you are there for them by giving them attention, encouragement, and comfort. You may need to spend extra time with your adopted child as a family. Your child may just need a loving, trusting hug.

Respond but don’t react. Do what you can to calm your child by lowering your voice, acknowledging your child’s feelings, and being honest and reassuring. Don’t take your child’s behavior personally. Help your child find words and more acceptable methods of expressing their feelings. A professional counselor can help with this step as well.

Take the time to listen to your child. Don’t force your child to talk about their experiences but when they are ready to express their feelings, give them your focused attention. Help them process their stress by encouraging them to practice slow breathing, listen to calming music, or repeat positive statements such as “I am safe now.” Most importantly, be patient as your child works through the changes in their life and realizes they are in a secure, loving environment now.

Encourage your child’s self-esteem. When your child has experienced complex childhood trauma, they can have difficulties with their self image as well. You can work with your child to help them to have more positive experiences that will increase their resilience. They can participate in school activities, sports groups, volunteer efforts, and other experiences that will help them feel better about themselves.

Secondary Traumatic Stress

When you are parenting a child who has experienced complex childhood trauma, it can put a strain on your relationship with the child, your relationship with other family members, and on your own physical and mental health. When you are affected in this way by someone else’s trauma, you may be experiencing secondary trauma.

You may need help yourself, to work through the effects of secondary traumatic stress. Self-care, skills training, social support, mindfulness and other stress reducing activities, as well as professional counseling and therapy can be beneficial to you and your family. Strategies such as psychotherapy can help ensure your well-being and provide the resources you need to work with your adopted child and their complex trauma.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Addiction Treatment

When you’re the father of an adopted child who is struggling, healing is possible for you and your family. You are not alone. You have resources available to you, such as the adoption-related treatment program at PACE Recovery. Our unique adoption-specific program can facilitate healing and healthy, productive discussions around adoption, attachment styles, and treatment for mental health issues or substance use.

Today, please contact us to learn more about our mental and behavioral health specialized services for parents of adopted children. Call the PACE Recovery Center team at 800-526-1851 to learn how we can help you or a loved one heal and lead a healthy life in recovery.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

addiction and bipolar disorder

Substance use disorders and mental health issues are often intertwined. One may lead to the other or one may significantly impact the other. There is a relationship between addiction and bipolar disorder that can lead to serious consequences if both conditions are not properly treated.

Bipolar Disorder

Everyone has ups and downs at some point in their lives. You may feel happy and then something might happen that will make you sad or angry. These types of mood swings are normal and typically don’t affect you for extended periods of time. However, bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and can impact your ability to function for months at a time. In years past, bipolar disorder was also known as manic-depressive illness; it is a condition with potentially severe symptoms.

When bipolar disorder is not treated, it can result in poor job performance, damaged relationships, and even suicide. When the disorder is treated appropriately, people who have it can lead full and productive lives. There are approximately 5.7 million adults in the US – about 2.6 percent of the population – who have been diagnosed with the disorder.

Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Substance use disorders are common among people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In fact, some researchers have found that addiction and bipolar disorder are so often diagnosed together (a phenomenon known as comorbidity) that it may almost be regarded as the norm. The relationship between addiction and bipolar disorder is something of a vicious cycle.

Addiction to alcohol has been found to be most prevalent (42%) among individuals with substance use disorders, followed by those who use cannabis (20%), and those who use other illicit drugs, such as opioids (17%). Although bipolar disorder is diagnosed equally in males and females, males have higher rates of lifetime substance use disorders.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol has also been found to be one of the causes of bipolar disorder. People who have had no prior history with bipolar disorder have been known to develop it after years of substance abuse. Extended and excessive use of drugs or alcohol rewires parts of the brain and can severely affect mood and behavior.

Likewise, people who have bipolar disorder are seven times more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Over half of the individuals diagnosed with bipolar had a substance abuse issue at some point in their life.

Worsening Symptoms

For someone with bipolar disorder who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the mood swings associated with the disorder can become severe. In addition, individuals diagnosed with both disorders experience a higher number of poor judgment decisions, longer episodes of emotional instability, and an increased number of suicide attempts. Their worsening emotional swings could include severe irritability and hostility toward those around them.

Diagnosis Challenges

The relationship between addiction and bipolar disorder is so closely linked that it can be difficult to diagnose co-occurring bipolar disorder and substance use disorder. Bipolar disorder alone has multiple different subtypes and varied presentations. Many patients are incorrectly diagnosed with depression alone.

When someone is addicted to central nervous system stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines, it can lead to a sense of euphoria along with an increased energy level. These symptoms are very similar to those in an individual experiencing mania and hypomania.

On the other hand, misuse of alcohol and benzodiazepines can imitate depressive symptoms. When someone who is addicted is experiencing withdrawal, those symptoms can also be very similar to the depressed or mixed phases of bipolar disorder.


Not only is diagnosis sometimes difficult for people with addiction and bipolar disorder but finding effective treatment can often be just as challenging. The two co-occurring disorders can result in devastating consequences, including social and economic issues, making treatment for both even more critical. Treatment should integrate medication management, cognitive and behavioral therapies, and a continuity of care that will help ensure both disorders are treated together successfully.

Dual Diagnosis Support for Men

At PACE Recovery, we optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.

The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.

Everyday Mental Health Strategies for Men During COVID-19

mental health strategies

These trying times have clearly highlighted the link between mental health and our overall well-being. Men’s mental health is an important – but often overlooked – concern in American society. While both genders experience mental illness, men face unique challenges in the pursuit of emotional wellness. Today, we’ve compiled a list of helpful everyday mental health strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How Men Experience Mental Illness

The symptoms of men’s mental illness depend on each person and their condition. However, there are a few signs that are more common and easy to spot. They include changes to mood or energy levels, irritability, aggression, feeling “on edge” or emotionally “flat,” and obsessing over thoughts or behaviors. Physical indicators of a mental health crisis are unexplained aches and pains, risky behavior, substance abuse, isolating from others, and changes to sleeping and eating habits.

Several different factors impact men and their experience of mental illness. They include…

Societal Expectations. Men’s issues may develop from the tenets of toxic masculinity. Traditional gender roles cause many young men to believe that they should:

  • Avoid talking about (or openly displaying) their emotions
  • Support the family, while not needing any support themselves
  • Demonstrate masculine traits like control and strength
  • Rely on others without outside assistance

Higher Suicide Rates. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more than 3.5 times more likely to die from a suicide attempt.

Difficulty Seeking Help. Men are much less likely than women to seek help for addiction, trauma, and depression. Mental Health America asserts that a combination of societal norms, downplaying one’s symptoms, and a reluctance to open up can contribute to this phenomenon.

Prevalence. Schizophrenia (90% men) and substance abuse are key men’s mental health concerns. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are more common among women than men; however, as stated above, men are much less likely to seek help.

Mental Self-Help for Men During COVID-19

Post-traumatic stress is a disruptive response to a life-altering event like COVID-19. Fortunately, research has shown that there is another potential outcome for survivors: post-traumatic growth. Among military personnel, firefighters, and EMTs, connection has the potential to transform troubling events into deep bonds. These friendships enable us to band together against a larger challenge. This approach is uniquely applicable for men, who often experience worsened mental health symptoms due to increased isolation and a reluctance to reach out or open up. Here are our top tips for fostering connection during COVID-19.

Get in Touch with Your Feelings

Men tend to repress their emotions; resist this urge and focus on feeling your feelings instead. During COVID-19, we are all feeling more depressed, anxious, and fearful than ever before. There’s no shame in admitting it. Journaling can be a great way to start analyzing your day (and how you feel about it) while still maintaining privacy. Once you become comfortable with identifying your emotions, you can start relaying them to others and asking for the right kind of mental health support.

Reach Out (To Anyone!)

Technology has allowed us to have deep conversations with our loved ones from halfway across the world. While you may not be able to see your parents or friends in person, they’re only a video call away. Whether you hop on the phone, send a text, or write a letter, try to be intentional about staying connected with your friends and family. Do your best to be open and honest about how you’re doing; you may be surprised by how much it helps.

Practice Introspection

You don’t have to be a meditation expert to benefit from some reflection. Many of us who have gone through addiction may find it difficult to think about ourselves. While looking inward can be uncomfortable, this type of check-in can assist you in identifying mental health issues before they spiral out of control. Take some time to understand yourself today.

Do Something to Help Yourself

If you’ve gone through treatment, you know that taking action is a vital part of recovery. You also know that it isn’t an easy thing to do. However, taking little steps to improve your life can make an incredible difference in your mental health. Think of meaningful ways to better your circumstances that don’t require a ton of effort, then start scaling up. Clean out your fridge. Run a load of laundry. Plant a small garden. Create a daily routine. Go to a meeting. Make a therapy appointment. These actions can transform your life.

Mental Health Support During the Pandemic

At PACE Recovery, we understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation, political unrest, and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health services, contact our Admissions team.