MENTAL HEALTH and Healing with Dr. Greg Cason
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
We live in a hectic world, where depression, stress, anxiety and PTSD have become commonplace. More often than not, people seemed to be running on adrenaline, in total survival mode. While trying to keep it all together, they lose themselves and maybe even lose sight of what it means to be happy, healthy and balanced. Many may also find relationships of any kind challenging, because they don't know how to relate and care for themselves. Knowing how to be there for ourselves, so we can be there for and with others can sometimes require some expert guidance.
We talked with Dr. Greg Cason, an LA based psychologist, to gain a little more insight as to what's going on with our mental health both collectively and individually. He’s helped countless individuals and couples find their way back to more balanced lives and relationships.
Why did you decide to get into the industry you’re in?
This is a big answer, but bottom-line is that it may be due to several personal factors including growing up with an older brother with an intellectual disability, growing up gay in a homophobic society, growing up with an abusive father, and then watching “The Bob Newhart Show” in which he was a psychologist and I saw that and dreamed of helping others. I think my course was set rather young.
What are you passionate about when it comes to helping people heal?
Again a big answer, but I don’t like to see others hurt and suffer. It brings me joy to not only to alleviate suffering in the moment, but also to give people the tools to continue that process on their own and help them continue down a better path.
What are the top three subjects that people look to you for help?
Would you say there's a mental health epidemic in this country?
Why is that?
It is partly our individualistic (versus collectivist) society, which is underlined by increased separation from others through means such as electronic communications and politically-motivated divisions. This creates a breeding ground for fear, which then increases propensity to mental and emotional problems.
What's the difference between everyday stress verses emotional and mental trauma?
Both may be gradations of the belief of “Things are too much to handle” combined with the belief that “I can’t handle it,” but with trauma, the belief is hard-wired in a significant way due to either single, multiple, or even on-going events that significantly change the way in which the person experiences the world and continues to react to the world.
Can you explain what happens to the brain when it's been traumatized?
The brain experiences something it has never expected or come across, so it changes itself significantly to incorporate the new experience and to help it continue to deal with similar experiences. It will never let go of that new learning, even in the face of contradictory evidence, because it always wants to be able to cope if something bad should happen again. As a result, the traumatized brain can have difficulty with everyday circumstances because the trauma experience will always lurk in the background. (Think of someone who has been through combat having to deal with the explosions on the Fourth of July.. they can see it is not combat, but the responses and memories persist). But, the response to a traumatic situation is not the same for all people. We all respond to trauma differently.
When someone has been traumatized by a situation, how often does that result in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)? How long are the effects of PTSD?
It is not the same for everyone and the trauma response can vary person-to-person. The effects can resolve in a month, but after about a month, the chances of the trauma continuing increase significantly. Other factors can increase the length and severity.
What are some of the latest treatments for PTSD?
There are so many, but the most effective help the brain sees that the trauma event is unlikely in the face of factors that trigger the trauma response. The primary therapy is called Exposure with Response Prevention. There are many therapy approaches that utilize this principle.
Is there a such thing as full PTSD recovery?
Yes. PTSD is a condition of re-experiencing, arousal, and avoidance. You can alleviate the symptoms that make up the condition. But the brain will never let go of the trauma learning as again, it believes that the same experience is always possible and the brain wants to be prepared. Thus, maladaptive responses in the face of new stressors or triggers are still possible.
Why are people often reluctant to reach out to a professional for therapy?
Some don’t want to see themselves as “sick,” some don’t want to ask for help, some believe they don’t deserve help, some are ashamed, and on and on. Money is a big reason once all the barriers are surpassed. Only a minority of people who could benefit from therapy ever go and the people who may “need” it most often are most reluctant to go.
Some people seem resilient no matter how much they've been through. Others spiral down after one or a series of major setbacks. What characteristics separate those who overcome major challenges as opposed to those that can not?
Bottom-line, some are more effectible. Thus life affects them more. Combine that with the environment, beliefs, and traumatic events and then there is variability in reaction.
What are some steps to help people if they have isolated themselves from their friends and family as well as social interactions due to depression of where they are at the present moment or from something that happened to them?
If you are talking to a person, you need to help them take steps in that direction through their personal values and experiences. If you are talking to friends and family, being supportive and yet challenging the person versus giving up on them.
If someone cannot afford traditional therapy, what options recommendations are available to them?
All the standards such a family, friends, groups, animals — things where they connect with others. Also reading can bring additional information.
How are you able to not bring your patients emotions and stories home with you and let it effect your mood or weigh you down? What are steps and things you do to relax at the end of the day? (yoga, meditation, meal, music, walk...)
Humor and exercise save my life.
Are there any steps you can recommend for someone that has gone through a very stressful situation that can help them a little? Any recommendations for someone trying to re-start / re-build their lives from where they are?
Connect with others. Bottom-line.
For more information about Dr. Greg Cason, visit: drgregcason.com