Tag Archives: adoption

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.

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.

Adoption-specific Treatment Program for Mental Illness

adoption

The origins of alcohol and substance use disorders vary from case to case, but there are two primary variables worth particular consideration. First, a genetic predisposition that people have for mental health disorders; second, the environment in which a person is brought up. Both factors, each in unique ways, will have a hand in who we grow up to be; they will shape how we form attachments with our peers, influence our ability to love others, and how we allow ourselves to experience affection in return.

While there isn’t a guarantee that people with a family history of addiction or alcoholism will struggle with the disease one day, those with a genetic link to mental health conditions are thought to be at more significant risk. The same idea applies to surroundings, just because somebody grows up in toxic environs doesn’t necessarily imply that an individual will self-medicate to cope. Although, as with genetic links, experts tend to agree there is a heightened risk of experiencing problems with drugs and alcohol if a person suffers trauma at an early age. Furthermore, when individuals hail from both detrimental environments and families with addiction in the lineage, the likelihood of problems developing is exponentially higher.

During the developmental stage of a person’s existence, we shape our perspectives about ourselves and others. Our interactions with people early in life, especially our parents or lack thereof, can wreak havoc on the psyche. There is an inextricable link between attachments during adolescence, and our self-worth, self-esteem, and identity development. If a person isn’t able to form bonds with their parental figures (biological or not), it can stunt one's ability to make attachments later in life. Isolative tendencies may ensue.

Genetics, Environment, and Adoption

mental illness

Mental illness thrives in solitude and interpersonal darkness; left unchecked the means of coping are often disastrous. Many children fail to receive the care and attention that fosters a healthy psyche, especially kids who go into foster care or are placed for adoption. Each case is unique to be sure; however, the ways, means, and timing of a young person’s separation from birth parents (regardless of the quality of their birth parents) is often traumatic.

Where a child ends up, a good home or an unloving environment, coupled with a genetic predisposition to mental illness, is often a causal sequence to addiction. While it’s regularly the case that predisposed young people struggle with drugs and alcohol after being separated from biological parents, it’s not a foregone conclusion. A study of adopted children reveals that family history of addiction and environment are equally crucial to substance use initiation, CNN reports. The findings appear in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Overall, 4.5% of adopted individuals had drug-abuse problems, but those with genetic ties to addiction were at double the risk of mental illness compared to those without the link. Researchers found a higher risk of drug abuse in children adopted into environments that include parental divorce, death, criminal activity, and alcohol problems.

Knowing the medical history of children who will be adopted is always a good idea, however... genes are not destiny," adds Dr. Wilson Compton, director of the division of epidemiology, services, and prevention research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "This study shows that in a healthy, safe, and secure environment with little exposure to drug abuse and other problems in the adoptive relatives, even children with multiple drug abusing biological relatives do much better than those whose adoptive families don't provide such advantages."

Addiction With A History of Adoption

Where we come from plays a deciding role in how we navigate through life; it plays a part in whether or not we will ultimately struggle with substance use and co-occurring mental health conditions. The study mentioned above didn’t account for the age at which the children, who would later develop addiction disorders, were adopted, which researchers should address in future studies, according to the article. Highlighting the research is meant to provide readers with an idea of how prevalent use disorders are among people in the demographic.

At PACE Recovery Center, we’ve treated many clients whose backgrounds involve adoption. We understand that a successful treatment outcome and achieving the goal of long-term recovery is contingent upon addressing clients’ underlying attachment issues. A significant number of adults raised in adoptive families struggle with anxiety or relationships. In dealing with a traumatic past, many people resort to drugs and alcohol to cope; self-medication is a sure path to dependence and addiction.

adoption

PACE is proud to announce the creation of our unique, adoption-specific program for men struggling with alcohol, substance use, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Working with Brett Furst, M.A., MFTI, clients can explore how a clash between logic and emotion precipitated and contributed to the development of mental health conditions, i.e., anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.

If you were adopted and are in the grips of a progressive mental health disorder, please contact us to begin the journey of recovery and self-discovery. We can provide you with the tools to help you heal from a traumatic past and help you foster healthy relationships moving forward. Connecting with your peers in recovery will prove vital to fulfilling your dream of lasting recovery.

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