Dr. Shelley Uram Featured on The Dr. Drew Podcast

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Dr. Shelley Uram, a triple board-certified psychiatrist and Senior Fellow at The Meadows, was recently a guest on The Dr. Drew podcast.

The podcast is hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist and addiction medicine specialist who is well known for his work both as a physician and as a TV and radio personality. On The Dr. Drew podcast, he takes listener calls and talks to experts on a variety of topics relating to health, relationships, sex, and addiction.

He and Dr. Uram had a fascinating and in-depth conversation about the ubiquity of relational trauma in today’s society, how trauma impacts the brain and body, and treatment modalities like mindfulness, yoga, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing, and 12-step frameworks.

Here are a few highlights from the show:

On The Prevalence of Trauma in Our Culture

Dr. Drew: What are you seeing with trauma these days?
Dr. Uram: There’s a lot of stress and strain and what I call relational trauma that’s inherent to modern American culture… It often leads to addiction, trauma, and depression.

The ACEs study showed us that when we’re children and we’re exposed to the stresses and strains of family and psychological traumas— “soft” traumas that are really not soft—they go on to create all kinds of psychological problems, medical problems, heart problems, lower socioeconomic levels, and more. So, those traumas we are exposed to as children and may not even recognize as traumas can go on to wreak havoc in the body, the brain, and the mind… I see that a lot.

On Unhealthy Relationship Patterns

Dr. Drew: People with traumas often seem to be magically attracted to the kinds of people who have features or qualities similar to the perpetrators of those traumas. And, of course, if you are drawn to a perpetrator they will oblige you and re-perpetrate. Where is your sense of where that’s coming from?

Dr. Uram: There’s a part of the brain called the brain stem, which is located physically at the lowest level of the brain and is evolutionally hundreds of millions of years of years old. Since it’s so ancient it doesn’t have sophisticated wiring. In addition to homeostasis, procedural memory is one of its functions. Procedural memories are habits or patterns that get locked into our brains. Every single function of the brain stem, including procedural memories, is unconscious. So, when patterns get locked in there, we are no longer aware of them. It’s like learning to tie your shoes. At first, it took a lot of effort, but once you got it, you could do it without thinking. So, how to tie your shoes is a procedural memory.

Procedural memories are also made up of any types of patterns that we picked up from our formative years, mainly birth to age five. They can be simple motor activities, like tying your shoes, or they can be tied in with strong emotions, fears, and expectations. Once something gets registered as a procedural memory, we’re off to the races. We’re going to keep repeating procedures related to those early emotions and all we can do is notice it. We have little to no control.

Another rule of thumb with the ancient brain areas like the brain stem is that they like for us to stay in the zone of comfort. Even if we consciously hate the zone of comfort we end up staying with it. So, for a woman who has been abused as a child and ends up in abusive relationships as an adult over and over and over—She may hate that she does that, but to her ancient survival brain areas, that’s the zone of comfort. That’s what it knows. It knows abuse. It knows neglect. It knows perpetrators…

Dr. Drew: Some people can trust their so-called instincts, but if you’ve had trauma… No. Or if you find that you repeat behavior you don’t like, or repeating circumstances you don’t like or relationships you don’t like—that’s when you can’t trust your instincts.

Dr. Uram: The real wisdom that we all have deep inside of us tends to be a very quiet voice—most of us don’t hear it all. But the voice of addiction, the voice of trauma, and the Fight, Flight, Freeze voice screams at us… By the time most of are three months old, our thinking brain has started to come online and we have our first dawning sense of “Oh, there’s a me.” That triggers our flight, fight, freeze survival responses like crazy. Especially if we are exposed to trauma, the survival voices are screaming loud voices inside our heads. They make us forget entirely how to listen to the quiet voice inside of us that contains our sixth sense and our wisdom.

On The Essential Self

Dr. Uram: We all have a soul—an essential self that we are born with and die with. It gives us our inherent sense of worth, and our wisdom, and our sense of peace and happiness—real, deep happiness… By the time we are young adults, most of us have long forgotten who we really are, because layer upon layer of false beliefs, expectations, symptoms, and negative feelings have built around our essence. We have to learn how to reclaim the essential self—How to get back down to that essential self and connect with it.

Learn more about The Essential Self and Trauma

Listen to the entire, hour-long podcast for more of Dr. Uram’s conversation with Dr. Drew. They go into more depth about the essential self, building interpersonal relationships, and the implications of trauma and the ACEs study.

Dr. Uram’s book, Essential Living: A Guide to Having Happiness and Peace by Reclaiming Your Essential Self is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. It will be available April 4 wherever books are sold.

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Is My Porn Use Normal?

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The question of whether any amount of porn use is acceptable is a divisive topic in our culture. It’s difficult to answer with any level of certainty. How much porn use is “safe” or “healthy” depends largely on a person’s individual circumstances, beliefs, and choices.

A question that we can answer with some certainty, however, is whether people – generally speaking – watch a lot of pornography. The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” In 2016, people spent more than 4 billion hours watching porn on just one website alone.

A group of researchers in Canada recently set out to determine how often all of this porn-viewing proved to be problematic. They found that there are basically three different types of porn users: recreational, compulsive, and distressed.

According to an article about the study published in New York Magazine’s “Science of Us” blog:

“After doing cluster analysis — where participants are, true to the term, clustered into groups — the researchers found some interesting breakdowns. A full 75 percent of participants fell under the recreational grouping, with low scores on all porn use dimensions, an average of 24 minutes of viewing per week. Women and people in relationships were overrepresented in this group.

The “highly distressed non-compulsive” profile (12.7 percent of the sample) had low compulsivity and intensity scores, but lots of emotional distress, and watched for an average of 17 minutes a week.

The “compulsive” profile fit 11.8 percent of participants, marked by high scores on intensity and compulsivity, and moderate scores on distress. They averaged 110 minutes a week.”

If you feel that your use of pornography falls within either the “highly distressed non-compulsive” profile or the “compulsive” profile, you should consider talking to a counselor or Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (C-SAT) about it. In fact, if you find that you are regularly engaging in any sexual behaviors that cause you shame or distress, or have brought on some adverse consequences in your life, it’s important that you reach out for help. There’s no reason why you couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to discover and define a healthy, nurturing, and relational sex life for yourself.

Help is Available

At The Meadows, we offer several opportunities for interested individuals to explore the root cause of their problematic sexual behaviors and make a positive change in their lives.

Sexual Recovery Workshops

For individuals seeking personal growth and understanding of their sexuality, we have two 5-day workshops available. Men’s Sexual Recovery helps men address sexual obsession and compulsive sexuality, and to learn how to build a sex life that is fun, fulfilling, and deeply meaningful.

Journey of a Woman’s Heart: Finding True Intimacy helps women explore unhealthy sexual patterns that interfere with their ability to form truly intimate relationships.

Inpatient and Outpatient Sexual Recovery

For those who need more intensive, long-term care The Meadows offers two gender-specific inpatient treatment programs for sex addiction as well as a comprehensive outpatient program.

Gentle Path at The Meadows provides an intensive, experientially-based 45-day treatment program for men struggling with sexual addiction, love addiction, intimacy disorders, or sexual anorexia and concurrently addresses complex addiction, disordered attachment, and trauma.

Similarly, Willow House at The Meadows offers to help women with relationship and intimacy disorders, including sex and love addiction, in a nurturing environment where they can rebuild their confidence and develop relationships that will empower their recovery.

The Gentle Path Outpatient Program offers the same high quality of care that exists on our main campuses in a comprehensive outpatient program setting where individuals can start or continue their recovery from sexual addiction and intimacy conditions with a flexible schedule that accommodates work and school whenever possible.

All of our workshops and treatment programs are located in Arizona. For more information about our sexual addiction workshops and treatment options, please call 855-333-6076 or send us an email.

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What Is Pornography Addiction?

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Lauren Timmermans, LAC, MBA, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows

The viewing of pornography can absolutely exist comfortably within a relationship in which both partners have discussed usage openly and find their relationship pleasing and gratifying. Of the large number of people who view pornography at some point in their lives, only a small percentage of those individuals become addicted. For those who are addicted, pornography is a compulsion in which the individual has become powerless in the face of the “drug” and their lives have become unmanageable.

In 2008, the Internet Filter Learning Center estimated that 12 percent of the Internet consists of pornographic images or videos. Through its accessibility, affordability, and anonymity, internet pornography has increasingly attracted a wider audience. Studies have shown that an estimated 50 percent of all Internet traffic is related to sex or sexual images. Additionally, 13 percent of the United States population consumes pornography regularly; 75 percent of the viewers are male.

Three Types of Pornography Users

Dr. Carnes identifies three types of cybersex and online pornography users:

Recreational users consist of those who watch pornography in ways that are both appropriate and inappropriate, satisfy curiosity, and for educational and exploration purposes.

At-risk users are more vulnerable to compulsion, depression or stress-induced viewing. Often times, this individual is able to resist until exposed to pornography.

Sexually compulsive users are typically viewing 11 or more hours of pornography a week and have established a compulsive pattern that could be making their lives unmanageable.

Watching pornography creates an emotional bond with an artificial word. That makes it increasingly difficult to bond with real people in everyday life. It can also lead to a life where sex is void of intimacy. Sex becomes about the behavior and not about the emotion, nurturance, intimacy, and love we get through a true connection with a partner.

Another side effect that has become more evident in recent years is the escalation of the viewing. An individual can begin to view themes or genres they may once not have considered in order to get the same dopamine hit they got when they initially started watching pornography.

Signs That Your Pornography Use is Problematic

How do you know if you or a loved one potentially has a problem? Read through this list and keep track of how many resonate:

  1. Preoccupation with pornography on the Internet.
  2. Frequently engaging in pornography, engaging in it for prolonged periods of time, or engaging in it for longer than intended.
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop viewing pornography.
  4. Restlessness or irritability when attempting to limit or stop engaging in pornography on the Internet.
  5. Using pornography on the Internet as a way to escape from problems or to relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression.
  6. Returning to pornography on the Internet day after day in search of increasingly more intense sexual content
  7. Lying to family members, therapists, or other to conceal consumption of pornography
  8. Committing illegal sexual acts in the viewing of pornography (viewing underage pornography or soliciting illegal behaviors.)
  9. Jeopardizing or losing significant relationships, jobs, or education because of pornography viewing behaviors
  10. Incurring financial consequences due to pornographic viewing.

Porn Addiction Help

If you or your loved one identifies with three or more of these behaviors, it may be worth addressing with a behavioral health professional, particularly a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT). By seeking help, individuals who identify with these characteristics can make positive changes to their personal relationships, realign with their higher power, regain time that was spent on addiction, and engage more fully in life. Also, feel free to give one of the Gentle Path at The Meadows Intake coordinators a call at 855-333-6076  or contact us to find out if an inpatient sex addiction treatment program might be right for you.