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How Important is Biology in Mental Health?

July 17, 2021

Biology Trumps Psychology

The myriad of mental health issues that exist are very real and have a profound impact on countless Americans. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis in order for the problem to be effectively treated. The vast majority of mental health issues are just that, mental health issues. However, there are dozens of medical, biological, chemical issues that can manifest as mental health issues. In these instances, treating the mental health symptoms, such as depression, may fail to address the true source of the symptoms. Before diagnosing a mental health disorder, it is critical to be on the lookout for possible medical conditions and rule them out. If there is an underlying medical condition, things will not improve or get better. This is an instance where biology trumps psychology.

Self-Advocacy and Thorough Assessment

Whether you are the patient or the provider, it is important that you be aware and on the lookout for biological and medical causes for mental health symptoms. It is important not to confuse symptoms for their causes. For example, don’t assume depressive symptoms automatically mean depression, or that psychotic symptoms automatically mean schizophrenia. If you are the patient presenting with mental health symptoms and you have no history of mental health problems and no obvious stressors (divorce, job loss, etc.) tha read more

April 10, 2021

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a set of symptoms diagnosed into three categories.

  • Inattentive Type: Includes symptoms such as trouble sustaining attention, being easily distracted, trouble organizing and following through on tasks, making careless mistakes, being forgetful, misplacing things, and procrastinating and avoiding tasks that require focus and attention.
  • Hyperactive Type: Includes symptoms such as being fidgety, talking excessively, interrupting and intruding, always being on the go, restlessness, trouble sitting and engaging in activities quietly, and blurting out answers before questions are completed.
  • Combined Type: Includes symptoms of both the inattentive and hyperactive types.

What Causes ADHD?

In the nature (genetics, physiology, and chemistry) and nurture (environmental events, stressors, or rearing habits) debate that surrounds many of the mental health conditions, most research supports that ADHD is caused more by nature.

  • Genetics: seems to be one of the biggest contributing factors in the development of ADHD.
  • Prenatal issues: can include trouble pregnancy and delivery, prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, premature delivery, and low birth weight.
  • Environmental f

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March 27, 2021

People with ADHD struggle with issues of attention, hyperactivity, or both. These symptoms are usually present and evident from the time they are toddlers to grade school age. ADHD is not something people develop later in life. Because ADHD is present from childhood, it can start impacting development early on.

Impact in Childhood

Some children, as young as infants, see an impact from ADHD in having mild delays in picking up language skills or motor skills. Many kids struggle with gaining independence and sometimes behave younger and more immature than fellow peers. Probably the greatest impact is on social skills and development. Kids with ADHD are often impulsive, hyperactive, are more emotionally reactive and moody, and due to distractibility and inattention miss the social cues and reactions of their peers. These symptoms and behaviors can be very off-putting to peers even at very young ages. Many times, kids with ADHD, especially hyperactive symptoms, end up being socially outcasted or rejected. This can fuel anxiety, depression, or anger which can increase acting out behavior and can create a negative feedback loop of increasing ostracization. It is not uncommon for them to develop the oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder later on in adolescence. Academically, kids with read more

February 27, 2021

Most parents struggle with getting their children to comply with directions, get chores done, and simply being cooperative. There is a technique called a token economy system that has been around for a very long time and works quite well with most children. It is based on positive reinforcement and a reward system so that if you are a parent who is reluctant to punish and give consequences, this tool should work wonders.

Token Economy System

A token economy system can work with children as young as two and still be effective with kids up to 13-14 years old depending on their maturity level. The principle is fairly simple. The parents select 2-5 targeted behaviors that they would like to see improve, for example putting dishes in the dishwasher or not hitting a sibling. With young children (2-8 years old) we recommend getting a notebook and listing the goals (dishes and not hitting) at the top. Get a supply of various stickers from any craft store; preferably ones your child thinks are cool. Then sit your child down and let them know that you have created a new system where they have a chance to earn stic read more

July 5, 2020

The transition to school for many children is quite a challenging endeavor. They are faced with the mental, emotional, and social challenges of learning to interact appropriately with peers, learn good boundaries, deal with emotional frustrations, and navigate the process of making friends. Ironically, these trials and tribulations are all secondary to the main focus in school, which are the cognitive and educational tasks of learning. The curriculum is designed sequentially and incrementally to be in line with the natural developmental milestones that most children are achieving at any given age. The material is challenging and intended to help with propelling a child forward through their development. For upwards of 7 million students, or roughly 14% of kids, their learning is impacted by any number of challenges that create the need for special education services, and nearly one-third of these students are struggling with a specific learning disability.

What are Specific Learning Disabilities?

The Colorado Department of Education defines it this way: Specific Learning Disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as read more

June 7, 2020

ADHD is a complex issue to diagnose due to the number of symptoms that are shared by ADHD and other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse issues. read more

May 31, 2020

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has three different subtypes. The Inattentive subtype is characterized by symptoms of being easily distracted, difficulty sustaining attention, issues with organization and follow-through, and a tendency to be forgetful to name just a few. read more

July 4, 2019

In practice, we are often asked by clients what is the best way to treat the issues they are dealing with? The short answer (of course) is that it depends. The recommendations that we provide to clients are based on professional training, clinical experience, and most importantly research findings. Let’s try to discuss some of the important variables that go into making what is a very personal decision.

Probably the most important factor to determining how to treat issues, is the issue itself. The diagnosis typically drives the treatment recommendation, however sometimes the severity (mild, moderate, severe) also changes the recommendation for medication, therapy, or both. Let’s talk about a few of the more common issues that people are often familiar with and often have a clearer recommendation. ADHD, once diagnosed after appropriate testing, is a condition that is often treated most effectively with medication. This is particularly true for moderate to severe forms. Some mild cases can be effectively treated with therapy or ADHD coaching that helps clients to implement certain tools and tricks to make their symptoms more manageable.

Medication Therapy

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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

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May 8, 2018

Coping Skills Development

Everyone attempts to cope with life’s stressors. Most people utilize a mixed bag of strategies, which could probably be put somewhere on a spectrum. Toward one end are healthier coping skills, and toward the other end are unhealthy coping skills. To be more effective in life and cope better, we encourage you to work on using coping skills that are on the healthier side of the spectrum, but provide you common strategies on both sides of the spectrum so you can see what you might be doing. Circle the ones you use routinely.

Healthier Coping Skills

I confront the situation head on I distance myself from the situation I control myself I use relaxation techniques I act to take care of things myself I learn or develop special skills I call a friend I call a supportive family member I keep on trying and trying I become very tolerant I try to get all the facts I debate things within myself I learn more about what happened I involve myself in daily tasks I try to see the situation as positive I accept responsibility when appropriate I set healthy boundaries with others I sleep or nap to build up my reserves I do something creative I pray and rely on my higher power I dream I make do with what I have I do art work I write in a journal I work at a hobby I find a mission I seek out social situations I talk with others about the event I find som read more