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What is Sleep Hygiene?

July 31, 2021

Causes of Sleep Problems Many people have sleep difficulties at some time in their life, and others have on-going sleep problems. There are a number of factors that can have a negative impact on a person’s ability to get good quality sleep. Stress is one common culprit to transient sleep troubles and often warrants examining issues in our life that may be preoccupying our mind and preventing us from quickly drifting off to sleep. It should also be noted that alcohol and other drug use can disrupt a person’s regular sleep cycle. Some people with chronic sleep issues may have a medical condition that impairs their sleep, such as sleep apnea. Additionally, some people who start to have sleep problems start to worry about their sleep, which in turns compounds their sleep troubles. A vicious cycle starts where a person worries about their lack of sleep and not being able to fall asleep and that in turn makes it that much more difficult to fall asleep. Many have thoughts such as, “Will I get enough sleep tonight so I won’t be tired at work tomorrow?” or “If I can’t fall asleep soon, I’ll never get to sleep tonight.” These types of thoughts increase our physical arousal and prevent us from being able to fall asleep. What is Sleeplessness? Sleeplessness can take several forms, but what follows are the three most common: read more

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

May 8, 2021

Although most people believe depression is the number one mental health issue, it’s actually anxiety. There are many more cases of anxiety and it can manifest in a variety of forms such as: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to name the more common ones. In most cases, the best treatment option depends on the diagnosis and the particular issues going on in a person’s life. Based on these variables’ healthcare professionals try to figure out the best treatment plan. Anti-anxiety medications are often part of the treatment plan when treating anxiety disorders. Broadly speaking most anxiety disorders are treated with antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or a few atypical anti-anxiety medications.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry, rumination, and preoccupation that is intrusive and affects concentration, sleep, and energy level to name just a few symptoms. In most cases, generalized anxiety disorder responds quite well to antidepressants. There are a wide variety of antidepressants that generally target the neurotransmitters for serotonin and norepinephrine. These medications need to be taken daily and generally take 3-6 weeks to build up in the bloodstream and provide some symptom relief. Most people notice improvements in sleep, appetite, ener read more

April 24, 2021

Bipolar Disorder is a very serious type of depression that was formerly known as Manic Depression. Treatment for bipolar disorder differs from treatment for more traditional forms of depression, often using a class of medications called mood stabilizers. In this article, we will talk about how bipolar disorder differs from regular depression and about the best treatment options for it.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Bipolar disorder includes a depressive phase that is very similar to that of traditional depression and includes symptoms such as:

  1. Having a 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/fatigue.
  6. Restlessness or feeling slowed down.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  8. Indecisiveness or lack of concentration.
  9. Suicidal thoughts or feelings.

With traditional depression, these symptoms are usually persisting for weeks, months, or years. With bipolar disorder, the depressed phase tends to last for a shorter period of time, typically 2-3 weeks on average. Additionally, with regular depression, there are often situational read more

November 1, 2020

In the last article, we talked about the incredible impact and effect that suicide has on individuals, families, and the community. In this article we are going to talk about how to prevent suicide. With proper knowledge and awareness, there are things we can do to intervene and hopefully prevent unnecessary losses.

Predisposed Temperament

The greatest triad of factors that account for most suicides are a person’s predisposed temperament and genetic vulnerabilities, severe psychiatric illness, and acute psychological distress. A predisposed temperament can include things such as an impulsive nature, a tendency to be emotionally volatile and reactive, and genetic vulnerabilities can include a tendency to have mental health issues or even a family history of suicide. By severe psychiatric illness we are referring to severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. If one or more of these are going on, a person is it high risk for suicide. Acute psychological distress are often environmental factors such as loss of a job, divorce, or breakup of a relationship to name just a few. Whether it is yourself or a loved one, being alert and on the lookout for this perfect storm can let you know when you need to be aware and possibly intervene. Temperament may or may not change read more

October 17, 2020

Suicide is for many an uncomfortable and taboo subject matter, which makes it no less of a problem around the world. Generally, happy people marvel at how someone could reach such a place of despair as to end their own life. As with any subject matter, the more we know about it, the greater our understanding and development of interventions can be. Knowledge is power. In this article, we will outline some of the grim facts about suicide and discuss some of the underlying causes and sources. In the next article, we will spend time talking about suicide prevention. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines suicide as “a suicidal act with a fatal outcome”. Suicide can be conceptualized on a spectrum of thoughts and behaviors. At one end can be risk-taking behavior, extending across varying degrees of ideation and thought, all the way over to suicide attempts and actual suicide. Suicidal thoughts cut across nearly all age groups, races, demographics, and orientations. In fact, it seems only pregnant women are more protected from suicidality, relative to all other groups. Even our youth are not protected. In a 1997 Youth Risk Surveillance Survey of 16,000 nineth to twelfth graders, 50% of New York high school students report that had “thought about killing themselves.” Suicide is in fact the third leading cause of death in the young. Overall, about 48,000 Americans commit read more

June 12, 2020

Anxiety: A Three-Part Series

Part One: The Physiological Chain Reaction  

 

Treating Anxiety in Therapy

Many people elect to treat their anxiety with anti-depressants and/or benzodiazepines such as Xanax when they are dealing with panic attacks. These can be very effective for many people. That said, we get an equal number of people who would prefer to treat their anxiety without medications or treat their anxiety with counseling in addition to medication. When treating anxiety in counseling there are two main ways to treat it therapeutically. There are reactive tools and proactive tools. Reactive tools are utilized when the anxiety flares up and is actively going on. The goal is to reduce the intensity of the anxiety and try to get it to dissipate. These are useful tools to have and can keep anxiety from escalating to the point of panic attacks for many people. As a precursor to discussing the reactive and proactive tools of anxiety, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the chain reaction that occurs with anxiety. In the next two articles, we will sp read more

May 16, 2020

Even during the best of times life is full of stressors and challenges. It is difficult dealing with the competing demands of work, finances, relationships, kids, parents, and trying to do a little something for yourself. Nearly 20% of American’s will be faced with a clinical depression or anxiety disorder at sometime in their lives. read more

March 7, 2020

Anti-Depressants Background

Antidepressants have been around since the 1950’s and have a number of applications. Most people assume they are simply used for depression, but many people don’t realize how often they are used to treat anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety. They have also been shown to have some success with issues like anorexia and trichotillomania, which is a hair pulling disorder. According to results from the National Center for Health Statistics 12% of the U.S. population used antidepressants in the past month. With the stigma surrounding mental health declining over the past 20 years, more people are seeking help for their issues and this has resulted in a 64% increase in people using antidepressants since 1999. Research says 20% of the population (1 in 5 people) will struggle with some kind of depression or anxiety at some time in their lives. For this reason, it is important to know how these medications work and how effective they are.

What are the different types of anti-depressants?

There are three different types of antidepressants, which all work differently. The Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s) are the oldest and first generation of antidepressants. These were commonly prescribed up through the 1980s. Although they help with depression and anxiety, the side read more

August 28, 2019

There is no unified definition of a workaholic, but there is a profile and we will discuss some of the features and characteristics common to being a workaholic. Many of these types of people regularly find themselves working 50 or more hours a week and feel compelled to stay busy and productive. This pattern of being in the world is often passed down within in families. Some people become workaholics to cope with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Excessive productivity or earnings are an attempt to compensate for not feeling good enough. Often there are perfectionistic standards and expectations that the person holds or grew up with.

Unfortunately for the person, being a workaholic is one “addiction” that our society reinforces and encourages. Employers benefit greatly and often others are encouraging and supportive of such effort so there is an inherent benefit to engaging in this type of behavior. The danger of this pattern is that there is a finite amount of time and energy to go around in any person’s life. When we become unbalanced but vesting too much time and energy into any area of our life, this inevitably means that other areas will suffer and be neglected. Often family and friends complain about not having enough time with the person. They may end up neglecting their physical hea

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