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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

July 4, 2021

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting at its essence is an attempt by one person to gain control over another person through mental and emotional manipulation. The primary mechanism of manipulation is the deliberate effort to supply false information that leads the victim to question what they know to be true. Victims often end up doubting their memory, perception, and interpretations. The person gaslighting will deny facts, experiences, or feelings. The end goal is intended to create increasing control and less resistance from the victim.

How it Begins

Often these relationships can start out quite well. A perpetrator may flatter and praise their victim as well as make significant disclosures rather quickly in an effort to establish trust quickly. Although it can happen in any type of relationship, it is most common in romantic relationships. These behaviors often occur throughout the relationship but are also especially prominent when attempting to assert a particular agenda. Over time the perpetrator can gain increasing control over their victims mentally, emotionally, physically, and even financially. This form of manipulation is abusive because it is intended to control another. Tactics and Profile of a Gaslighter Those people who employ gaslighting strategies and tactics often have personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder read more

June 19, 2021

In the last article in this series on emotional regulation, we talk about the different means and mechanisms by which people learn to actively suppress their emotions. The goal of understanding and becoming increasingly aware of this is to help set the stage for healthy emotional expression and release. In this article, we will discuss some fairly simple guidelines and suggestions for expressing feelings. Most people are able to quickly realize how they are suppressing, realize they probably need to stop suppressing, but fear stopping. They fear if they do express their feelings a great dam will burst open and they will not be able to stop the outpouring of emotion. There is some potential truth in this fear. Due to ongoing suppression, people stockpile feelings and they build up like steam in a pressure cooker. We cannot guarantee you that at times you will not lose control over some of your feelings and feel overwhelmed. We can assure you that you will not die or “go crazy”. We can also assure you that over time that pressure will begin to lessen and dissipate, which will make it easier to regain healthy control over your feelings. With some coaching, hopefully, we can teach you how to prevent the dam from bursting open and 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

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

read more

March 14, 2021

Many people use the terms guilt and shame interchangeably and are not even really sure what makes them different. There are important differences; especially in terms of the impact they can have on you and how you address them. Let’s look at what makes guilt and shame differently. Guilt: Is an emotion that occurs as an automatic reaction to acting against one’s own morals and values. For example, if Bill values honesty, but he goes home and lies to his wife, he will suddenly feel guilty. Interestingly, the purpose of function of guilt is that it is designed to get you back in alignment with your values, i.e., to be a good person. In our example above, Bill’s guilt will hopefully propel him to get honest with his wife, or simply stop lying to her in the future. Shame: Is an emotion that occurs in reaction to a perception of self-defectiveness. For instance, Beth might believe there is something bad or wrong with her when a guy didn’t call her for a second date. In many instances shame causes people to hide parts of themselves that they believe are self-defective from others in an effort to avoid humiliation. Most people who do this only allow others to see and interact with the persona they portray, because of the fear that if they were genuine and real, they would be humiliated in front of others. The primary diff 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

September 19, 2020

In the 1950s two notable pieces of research, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, worked together to study babies, attachment, and separation. They worked with countless parents and caregivers and their infant children. They studied the bond between parent and child but were most fascinated by the child’s bond, or attachment, to the parent. This emotional bond also represents the manner and way in which the infant gets its needs met from the parent. What is most interesting about their studies is the use of separation. In the studies, the infant was left alone briefly and they monitored both the reaction of the infant when the parent left, but also the reaction when the parent returned. This was the most telling indicator of the type of attachment style the infant had with its caregiver. They concluded there are 4 main attachments styles that can develop out of these early interactions. In fact, much of their research suggested that the particular type of attachment was pretty well-formed by the end of the first year of life and was quite enduring thereafter and impact our relationships as adults. Let take a look at the four attachment styles.

Secure Attachment

Nearly 55-60% of children have a secure attachment with their parents. These children are eager to see their parents, are readily comforted by the parent and tend to play and interact regularly with their parents. 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