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Whole Health Recovery

by Cindy Hardy ❘  

The Need for Whole Health Recovery

Untreated psychiatric and substance use disorders leave room for a connection with spiritual values. For example, a person with major depression and alcohol dependence is often filled with feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and a lack of joy for life. Spiritual emptiness can lead to a preoccupation with self-harm or even suicide and a worsening of emotional and mental health symptoms, and often contributes to more drinking and drugging to fill the void as well. For these reasons, whole health recovery is necessary for successful addiction treatment.

Factors at Play

One single factor in isolation whether biological, psychological, social, cultural, environmental, or spiritual may weigh heavily or very little, depending on the disorder. For example, schizophrenia is linked strongly to genetic factors. Addictive disorders are linked heavily to inherited predispositions in brain chemistry. Other illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD are clearly influenced by the environmental factors of being exposed to an extremely stressful event, such as rape, combat, or a natural disaster. On the other hand, the likelihood of developing PTSD is also related to a person’s pre-trauma vulnerability in the form of genetic, biologica,l and personality factors combined with the magnitude of the stressful event, preparedness for the event, and the quality of care after the event.

The relative roles of all these factors also vary across individuals and across stages of the life span. For instance, in some people, major depression arises primarily as a result of exposure to stressful life events, whereas in others the foremost cause of depression is a genetic predisposition.

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Treating Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders

Psychiatric and substance disorders are very treatable illnesses. The outlook for people coping with both illnesses is improving. This means, with treatment, most people with these disorders can stay in remission with the intermittent return of symptoms perhaps during times of stress. Others may be able to reach a point of recovery where symptoms are not present, and still others may have a steady ongoing struggle of medication augments, hospitalization, and additional treatment before symptom management is achieved. A person is not responsible for being predisposed to medical disorders of the brain. They are responsible for participating in appropriate treatment and complying with a recovery plan. Recovery is said to be simple but not easy.

Recovery is simple because the program of recovery is simple. It involves changes like eating nutritious foods, working towards abstinence, replacing negative thinking with positive thinking, changing self-defeating behaviors to healthy behaviors, and developing a healthy support system. Recovery is not easy because change can be difficult, and work is work. Recovery requires effort and patience and then more effort and patience. It is worth the effort! A person is either in illness or in recovery. In illness, an untreated medical disorder of the brain causes problems in all areas of a person’s life. In recovery, the bio-psycho-socio-cultural-environmental-spiritual approach means a person finds balance in all these areas like physical health, mental health, relationships, and spirituality. Health is more than just the absence of illness or disease. Working toward goals of wellness by learning to manage a disorder means the problems caused by untreated illness can either managed, coped with, or will go away altogether.

Aspects of Whole Health Recovery

Physical health or wellness includes:

  • Getting rest and sleep
  • Developing relaxing skills
  • Maintaining nutrition and proper body fat
  • Avoiding abuse of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Achieving fitness
  • Practicing positive life-style habits
  • Carrying out daily tasks

Psychological wellness or emotional and mental health includes:

  • Learning and using information effectively for personal, family, and career development
  • Recognizing, accepting, and expressing feelings, emotions, and thoughts appropriately
  • Managing stress
  • Structuring time
  • Accepting one’s personal limitations
  • Striving for balance in work, play, and rest
  • Learning to deal with new challenges effectively
  • Striving for continued growth is critical

Wellness in the areas of social, culture, and environment includes:

  • Interacting successfully with people and the environment
  • Developing and maintaining intimacy with significant others
  • Developing respect and tolerance for those with different opinions and beliefs

Spiritual health is interwoven with physical, mental, and emotional health and includes:

  • Believing in some force, nature, science, religion, or a higher power that serves to unite human beings and provide meaning and purpose to life
  • Defining and living within personal morals, values, and ethics.

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