Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Friday, August 27, 2010

Going Back to School Met with Mixed Emotions

Millions of students at all grade levels, from elementary to high school to college, will head back to school – and many times this is met with mixed emotions. Not because the “summer fun” has ended, but because school adds new pressures into the mix, with many kids focusing on trying to be popular, and some just to even fit in.

Many times these pressures can manifest physically, with young men and women trying to be an ideal body size and weight, just like they see in the people they idolize in magazines and movies. I want to educate students and parents about potential problems and let them know assistance is available.

As many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia nervosa or bulimia and another 25 million are fighting a binge eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. And because of this, body image and eating disorders are growing concerns in schools around the country.

This is an especially critical time to be aware of potential problems and watch for warning signs. During this time when schedules change drastically with the start of school, and new pressures are added into the mix, children and young adults can be more susceptible to body image issues and concerns.

Warning signs that there could be a potential problem in a loved one include:
•refusal to eat
•difficulty concentrating
•denial of hunger
•obsession with body size and shape coupled with low self esteem
•skipping meals and making excuses for not eating
•eating only a few certain foods considered safe, usually those low in fat and calories

Recognizing these signs and symptoms in a loved one can be a critical first step in working to improve body image distortions. Through early intervention, treatment and therapy, a positive body image can be restored and a life free from the obsession of reaching an “ideal” body size and shape can be achieved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Animal Assisted Therapy

I wanted to share with you some ways in which Timberline Knolls involves animals to facilitate healing and rehabilitation. As a collaborative effort between Timberline Knolls staff and a professional handler, Timberline Knolls residents work with animals to realize individual treatment goals by addressing a variety of mental health and human development needs, including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.

Canine Therapy
By building on the bond between dogs and humans, residents receive unconditional love and patience provided by special therapy dogs, which help increase the residents’ self esteem and motivation. Whether emotional or physical, goals are oriented toward growth on an individual level.

Equine Therapy at TK Ranch
Timberline Knolls offers equine-assisted psychotherapy, a powerful and effective therapeutic approach providing residents with an opportunity to work and care for horses. Certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), TK Ranch helps residents develop non-verbal communication skills, assertiveness, confidence, creative thinking, leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as teamwork and relationships.

Has anyone found that animal therapy helped them in their recovery? I would love to hear your stories.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adderall a Miracle Drug to Students But Highly Addictive Nature Ignored

Another issue I want to talk about with kids going back to school is adderall use. Adderall is a drug widely reported to increase alertness, concentration and overall cognitive performance, while decreasing fatigue – but it is also a drug widely abused across college and high school campuses. During exam time and throughout the year, students are consuming this highly addictive drug in order to study, as well as in many cases to lose weight due to the loss of appetite realized when adderall is taken.

It’s prescribed on a regular basis to treat ADHD and ADD, but adderall is being sold and handed out in mass quantities to individuals with no prescriptions. The problem is getting worse and the harmful effects and addictive nature of this drug ignored.

Adderall is over prescribed to all populations, by general psychiatrists and even addiction psychiatrists, without informed consent or understanding by the psychiatrist of dependency risks. Many people with addictions and eating disorders seek out psychiatrists who will give them adderall prescriptions with little to no therapy, diagnostic detail or consideration of non-medication alternatives.

The problem has been researched by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, specifically with college aged kids, who in a 2009 survey found that, “full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were twice as likely as their counterparts who were not full-time college students to have used adderall non-medically in the past year.”

I believe the best medication for attention deficit disorder is ongoing, consistent and loving therapeutic attention. Due diligence must be done by professionals to decrease the amount of these prescriptions handed out, and subsequently decrease the amount of abuse widely seen on college and high school campuses. And education to students on the drug’s addictive nature is key to stopping the severity of abuse being seen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back to School: While a Fresh Start, College Also Can Trigger Harmful Lifestyle Choices

I wanted to let everyone know about a book my colleague here at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, Jena Morrow, recently published: Hollow: An Unpolished Tale. This book details a battle with anorexia that begins in early childhood, and also one where college gave her the perfect opportunity to delve deep into her disease.

College is supposed to be an exciting time in a young woman’s life; a chance for a fresh start, the opportunity to make decisions that will impact the rest of her life. But for Jena, college life brought negative and harmful lifestyle choices into the forefront.

Jena found college to be the most opportune time to really elope in harmful behavior, a sickness that almost killed her – anorexia.

In college, Jena hid her disease because she was no longer under the watchful eye of her parents, high school teachers or long-time friends. She was able to lie and deceive those who did not know any better.

She even recounted this story for me: "At the beginning of college, my parents bought a meal card for me, but there was one catch: I had to sign a paper upon arrival to college to activate it. I just never signed the paper; my parents never knew, and I played it off as a dumb mistake to my new friends. It was easy to hide my disease from people at college because they didn’t know I ever had a problem. I would avoid social situations where I knew food would be present, and in a way, isolated myself.”

With help, she’s had the strength to recover, and one of her messages in the book is a powerful one: the stresses, freedom and autonomy of college combine to create the perfect opportunity to practice life skills, but it’s also an ideal time for negative influences to have an impact and cause unknown internal triggers to show up for the first time.

Jena did relapse later in life, but after becoming a mother she realized she had more to live for – and is now happily in recovery. Currently working as a behavioral health specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, Jena wrote her book to give hope to others struggling with an eating disorder, as well as create awareness and open people’s eyes to the impact and prevalence of these diseases.