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November 7, 2018

Description Where many people enjoy gambling as an occasional social or recreational activity, for others it becomes a real struggle. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences or continuing to gamble despite a desire to stop. An estimated 15 million Americans have problem gambling with more than 3 million of them having severe problematic gambling. Problem gambling is not a bad habit or moral weakness, but a serious condition that is treatable. Although it is commonly referred to as gambling addiction, it is actually categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, like chemical addictions it is a progressive and chronic condition. Problem gambling tends to strain relationships, affect one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school, and can lead to financial catastrophe. It can lead people to do things they never thought themselves capable of such as borrowing or stealing money from partners, employers, and even their children.   Symptoms & Features Pathological Gambling Disorder is a persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling pattern as evidenced by five or more of the following symptoms: 1) a mental preoccupation with gambling, 2) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or effect, 3) repeated unsucce read more

October 25, 2018

Description Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It manifests with two components: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are unwanted and recurring thoughts, images, beliefs, or impulses that are intrusive and upsetting for people. Common obsessions include fear of contamination, having things orderly or symmetrical, aggressive impulses, or sexual images or thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors people feel compelled to do in an attempt to reduce anxiety stemming from the obsessions. Examples of compulsions include washing, cleaning, counting, checking, orderliness, or hoarding things. An important qualifier for OCD is that it is interfering with a person’s ability to function. Many people have obsessive or compulsive “quirks”, tendencies, or traits, but they are not of the level or degree that it is causing them problems in their lives.   Symptoms & Features A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you believe you have OCD. Symptoms of OCD include either obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause anxiety; are not just excessive worry about real life problems; attempts are made to suppress or ignore the thoughts; and are recognized to be a product of one’s own read more

October 9, 2018

Description Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common form of clinical anxiety and is different from normal everyday worry. Where most people report having some general and specific worries, they are capable of controlling it. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience exaggerated worry and fears throughout the day with little or nothing provoking it. Their anxiety is intrusive, difficult to get off their mind, and often uncontrollable. They may be overly preoccupied with money, relationships, health issues, career, or ruminate about decisions and choices. GAD is twice as common in women as men. The disorder can occur at any age, but commonly manifests in adolescence to middle age. Untreated GAD is prone to the development of other issues such as depression or abuse of alcohol or drugs.   Symptoms & Features A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if three of the following symptoms are persisting for six months or more in conjunction with excessive worry and preoccupation that is difficult to control. 1) muscle tension, 2) disturbed sleep (insomnia or excess sleep), 3) being easily fatigued, 4) restlessness or feeling on the edge, 5) irritability, 6) indecisiveness or lack of concentration.   Unlike physical issues like strep throat there is no laboratory test to prove wh read more

September 25, 2018

Description There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia is characterized by intense fear of gaining weight. It generally affects young women, but can occur in anyone. It is a severe illness wherein hormone levels changes from low weight and lack of body fat. Proportionally, anorexia has the highest death rate of all mental health issues with 5-20% dying from it. Bulimia is the second major eating disorder characterized by binging (eating a lot of food in a short period of time) and then trying to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food, called purging. 5 to 10 million females and one million males struggle with eating disorders. Binge eating disorder is when people eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control when doing so. They may eat when they are not hungry, feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.   Symptoms & Features A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if there are symptoms of an eating disorder. Anorexia is diagnosed when: 1) there is refusal to maintain body weight appropriate to height and age and is often less than 85% of expected weight, 2) they have an intense fear of gaining weight even when underweight, 3) the person experiences a distorted body image and sees themselves as fat, 4) t read more

September 11, 2018

Description One of the most common mental health issues that people are familiar with is depression. As many as 20-25% of people will experience depression at some time in their lives. There are actually a few different types of depression. Major Depression is the one most people think of when they think of depression. People will have many or most of the symptoms listed below consistently for at least a two week period of time, however many people will have been dealing with it for several months or longer before taking action. Persistent Depressive Disorder manifests fewer symptoms, but often lasts for two or more years. This is sometimes referred to as a functional depression in that it most people are still able to function in their daily lives, despite the bothersome symptoms. Substance Induced Depression is far less common and evolves from the abuse of chemicals such as alcohol or opiates (depressants). Often when the person stops abusing chemicals, the depression naturally lifts on its own in a few weeks.   Symptoms & Features A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if 4-5 of the following symptoms are persisting for two or more weeks. 1) depressed (sad or empty) mood most of the day, 2) loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyable activities, 3) appetite/weight ga read more

August 27, 2018

Recommendations for Adapting to Attention and Concentration Problems What follows are a list of tips and methods for improving success for adolescents and adults who struggle with attention deficit disorders. Not all suggestions will work for every person. It is important to experiment with each for a reasonable amount of time and see if it makes a difference. Remember that with practice these skills become more familiar and comfortable. Over time most people begin to use these skills without having to actively work at it and begin to demonstrate improvements in sustained attention, impulse control, and organization. Be patient and diligent and you should see improved results in time. Be sure to modify each one to be age appropriate in nature.  

  1. Mountains into Mole Hills: One trick that can be helpful is to break tasks in smaller individual steps. Rather than telling yourself to clean your room, you might consider breaking into small tasks like: pick the clothes first, put away the personal items, make the bed, and then vacuum the floor. It might be important to allow for short breaks between tasks.
  2. Explicit Directions: Make sure you seek out directives that are as clear as possible and give plenty of detail. For example, if someone asks you to get that project done, that will likely

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July 18, 2018

Description It is important to distinguish between acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you of possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. It is often a short lived and fleeting type of pain. Chronic pain persists and pain receptors continue firing in the nervous system for days, weeks, or even years. Chronic pain can be worsened by environmental and psychological factors. Causes can vary from degeneration of discs, cancer, burns, headaches, sciatica, neuropathy, and countless other sources. Some stem from injury, diseases, or various syndromes or conditions.  You might be experiencing chronic pain if any of the following are true for you: your pain has lasted more than 6 months, you have pain from an injury that should have healed by now, your pain gets worse when stressed or angry, your pain medications have stopped working even if your dose has been increased, you have trouble sleeping from your pain, your pain is affecting your social life, you regularly call in sick due to the pain, or it’s hard for you to enjoy activities due to pain.   Symptoms & Features There is no one set of criteria or symptoms that fit chronic pain. In addition to the enduring pain symptoms such as burning, aching, soreness, tightness or stiffness a person experiences, read more

July 3, 2018

Description Bipolar disorder consists of cyclical changes from depressive states to manic states and is more than the usual ups and downs or mood swings that people experience. These recurring episodes of depression and mania cause extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior that interfere with normal functioning. These shifts in mood are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain as opposed to environmental events.   Symptoms & Features A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought immediately if you suspect you are cycling between depression and mania. Depressive symptoms include: 1) depressed (sad or empty) mood most of the day, 2) loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyable activities, 3) appetite/weight gain or loss, 4) disturbed sleep (insomnia or excess sleep), 5) lowered energy level/fatigued, 6) Restlessness or feeling slowed down, 7) feelings of worthlessness or excess guilt, 8) indecisiveness or lack of concentration, 9) suicidal thoughts or feelings. Manic symptoms include: 1) inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, 2) decreased need for sleep (ability to go with little or no sleep for days without tiring), 3) pressured speech or being very talkative, 4) racing thoughts, 5) distractibility, 6) increased goal directed activity (being very productive), 7) engaging in risky be read more

June 24, 2018

What Is Anger?   Anger is an automatic reaction to a perception of injustice and is designed to energize people to take action and correct the wrong. For instance, if your neighbor stole your car stereo, you would become angry and the anger would cause you to want to confront your neighbor and seek justice. Most people are somewhat passive to mildly assertive and anger pushes them up the spectrum to become more assertive in handling problems. Anger gets a bad reputation when people behave in aggressive ways such as assaulting others. So long as anger can be controlled and channeled in productive ways, it is actually a constructive emotion. Managed poorly, it becomes destructive.   Poorly handled reactions of anger can result in a variety of consequences including: legal, financial (destroying property), occupational, relational, and physical (injury or long term effects). Many people struggle with anger for a variety of reasons. Some people have never really learned how to handle and manage emotions and continue to struggle into adulthood. Other people have been over-controlling emotion by suppressing it. Suppressed emotion builds internally and can result in explosive outbursts, which seem out of proportion to the event, but are really an accumulation of emotion that is discharged all at once. The intensity of that emotion makes it difficult to co read more

June 6, 2018

The use of alcohol in our culture is pervasive. For most people their use of alcohol is social or recreational and is secondary to the event and situations they are engaging in. For about 10% of the American population their use of alcohol becomes abusive or has already reached the level of dependence. There are four levels of alcohol use: abstinence, social use, abuse, and dependence. Social use pertains to people who drink for the taste rather than the effect (glass of wine with dinner or a dessert drink).  It can be difficult to differentiate between those who abuse and those who have crossed the line to dependence, both of which are problematic. One benchmark of problematic drinking stipulates that men who drink more than 4 drinks in one sitting or more than 14 drinks in a week and women who drink more than 3 drinks in one sitting or more than 7 drinks in a week, likely have abuse or dependence problems. Alcohol abuse and dependence fall on a spectrum. The more symptoms a person endorses, they can move from abuse to dependence. Alcohol abuse is suggested if a person endorses 2-3 of the symptoms, and alcohol dependence is likely present if a person endorses 4 or more of the following symptoms: 1) tolerance (a need for an increase in the amount of alcohol to get the same desired effect), 2) withdrawal (shakes, sweats, etc. in the absence of drinking, 3) drinking in larger am read more