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Behavioral Health and the Brain: Understanding Our Most Complex Organ

The brain has many different parts that affect both our mental and physical health. Let’s review the human brain and how it influences our thoughts and behavior.

Basic Brain Overview

Each region of the human brain has particular functions. The three main parts of the brain include the:

Cerebrum: Located at the front of the brain, the cerebrum has many responsibilities. It helps coordinate movement and regulate body temperature. The cerebrum also serves a role in the senses, including vision and hearing. It is also involved in more advanced functions like speech, reasoning, problem-solving, emotions, and learning.

Cerebellum: Located in the back of the brain, the cerebellum helps coordinate voluntary movements and to maintain the body’s equilibrium in space. Researchers are also looking into this region’s involvement in emotions and social behavior, including mental illnesses.

Brainstem: Located at the lower part of the brain, the brainstem connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. Its many functions include reflexes, involuntary functions like heart rate and breathing, and movement and coordination.

These regions of the brain can be further divided into smaller, more specific parts.

Parts of the Cerebrum

Within the cerebrum are four main parts:

Frontal lobe: This lobe is located at the front of the cerebrum. It affects personality, decision-making, and movement, and also plays a role in smell and speech.
Parietal lobe: In the middle of the brain, this lobe helps identify objects and spatial relationships, and is involved in interpreting touch, including pain. It also includes Wernicke’s area, which helps in understanding spoken language.
Occipital lobe: This lobe, located in the back of the brain, is crucial for vision.
Temporal lobe: Located at both sides (hemispheres) of the brain, this lobe plays a role in memory, language recognition, and understanding music.

Parts of the Cerebellum

The cerebellum includes three main sections:

Flocculonodular lobe: This is the smallest region of the cerebellum, and is involved in balance and the body’s orientation in space.
Anterior lobe: This part also helps manage the body’s orientation and movement, and receives input mainly from the spinal cord.
Posterior lobe: The largest part of the cerebellum, this lobe is involved in fine motor coordination, using input mainly from the brainstem and cerebral cortex.

Parts of the Brainstem

There are also three main sections to the brainstem:

Midbrain: This part of the brainstem is located toward the front of the brainstem. It is involved in vision, hearing, motor and temperature control, and the body’s sleep/wake cycle and alertness.
Pons: This section has many responsibilities, including involuntary functions like breathing and bladder control. It helps send signals from the forebrain to the cerebellum. It is also involved in facial sensations and movement, such as pain, eye movement, swallowing, and saliva secretion.
Medulla: Also known as the medulla oblongata, this part is essential to survival. It helps regulate many automatic functions, such as heart and lung functions, as well as reflexive responses like vomiting and sneezing.

Your brain is an incredible organ, and it deserves a rest sometimes. Take some of the stress out of your workday with an EHR solution built for your behavioral health practice.

Here at BestNotes, we’ve created an EHR specifically with behavioral health and addiction treatment in mind. From intake and assessment to discharge and outcomes, we’re here for you through the entire client journey. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help your practice run more smoothly so you can provide even more value.

date:  Jan 18, 2022
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BestNotes Proud to be a Technology Partner with NAATP

BestNotes is proud to partner with NAATP to bring FoRSE to more clients in the addiction treatment industry. NAATP has introduced FoRSE, a system used to aggregate data collected from clients by a diverse set of providers for SUD treatment centers. FoRSE aims to improve addiction treatment. As a technology partner, users of BestNotes can […]

date:  Jan 11, 2022 comments:  Comments Off on BestNotes Proud to be a Technology Partner with NAATP
by:  Nicole Hovey category:  Blog Read More

Seven Mental Health Resolutions to Make in the New Year

Whether you love making New Year resolutions or think they’re overrated, the New Year is a good time to consider healthier habits. If you want to try building your mental health in 2022, here are some goals to consider.

1. Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving! Taking time to be grateful, even for the smallest things, can increase our overall happiness.

Try writing down three things to be grateful for when you get up in the morning. Alternatively, write down three things that went well at the end of the day. Consider simple things you might overlook—for example, if you got home from work safely.

2. Set and maintain healthy boundaries.

Good boundaries are an important part of healthy, fulfilling relationships. They set an appropriate, secure division between one person and another.

Poor boundaries can cause emotional exhaustion, stress, and strained relationships. Learning to set and keep good boundaries with clients, coworkers, and loved ones could benefit your overall wellbeing.

3. Spend more time in nature.

A growing body of research has found that time spent outdoors, especially in green spaces, can help reduce stress and improve cognitive function. Look for ways to spend more time outdoors in 2022, whether you have to bundle up to build a snowman, or take a lunch break in the park.

4. Get more physically active.

What New Year resolution list would be complete without “Exercise more”? While many people exercise as part of a weight-loss goal, you can benefit mentally even if you don’t lose an ounce. Exercise has been linked to reduced depression, lower stress, and improved self-image.

Of course, you don’t have to go outside to exercise. A gym or YMCA can help you get moving even in the coldest, darkest months. Even a quick walk around your office is better than nothing!

5. Cut back on sugar.

Just like exercise, reducing your sugar consumption can benefit your mind as well as your waistline. One 2017 study found a correlation between high sugar intake and risk of common mental disorders in men. And older study found a link between refined sugar consumption and schizophrenia outcomes.

Avoid products with a lot of added sugar, such as snack crackers and salad dressings. Swap sugary foods with lower-sugar options. Limit your consumption of candy, baked goods, and fruit juices.

6. Sleep better at night.

It’s hard to accomplish much on insufficient sleep. Insomnia and fatigue can increase stress and harm our mental and physical wellbeing.

Building better sleep habits night might be the most important New Year resolution you could make. Limit light exposure in the evening and stick to a regular bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool, stop using screens once you get into bed, and avoid alcohol and caffeine a few hours before bedtime. This can help regulate your circadian rhythm and get your sleep schedule on track.

7. Cut yourself some slack.

Even small resolutions can be tricky to keep. Maybe all you need to do this year is go easy on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and you may not always meet your goals. Learn from your mistakes, keep moving forward, and show yourself compassion.

Is your behavioral health practice software helping you meet your New Year goals? If not, it may be time for a change!

BestNotes EHR solutions were designed specifically to help behavioral health and addiction treatment providers save frustration, time, and cost. Contact us today to learn more about how can help your practice succeed.

date:  Jan 03, 2022
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Five Medical Conditions to Rule Out Before Making a Mental Health Diagnosis

Mental illness can create significant strains on the body as well as the mind. The opposite is also true: physical disorders can cause symptoms that imitate many mental health conditions. Treating the underlying physical condition may resolve many psychological symptoms.

If you have a behavioral health client with mental health symptoms, always rule out underlying physical causes before writing a prescription for an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. Here are five common situations where a physical condition may cause mental symptoms.

1. Thyroid conditions

Your thyroid can have a big impact on mood, whether the thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism). Although these conditions come with a lot of physical symptoms that may be noticed first, they can also cause emotional issues like fatigue, depression, irritability, and restlessness.

2. Medications

Fatigue and dizziness are common symptoms of depression and dementia, especially in older clients. However, these symptoms can also be caused by a variety of medications, such as those for blood pressure or pain. If your clients complain about sluggishness, forgetfulness, or dizziness, check that they are not taking medications that may cause these symptoms.

3. Nutritional deficiencies

There is still a lot we don’t know about the link between nutrition, diet, and mental health. However, there is evidence that a deficiency of certain nutrients can cause symptoms that resemble mental illness. That’s why it’s a good idea to order a blood test for your clients to rule out these deficiencies, and counsel them on good nutrition and lifestyle choices.

For example:

Low vitamin D may cause symptoms of depression.
Lack of vitamin B12 can worsen depression, and is highly prevalent among patients with schizophrenia.
Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

4. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease can cause damage in the small intestine and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Thus, untreated celiac disease can cause several mental symptoms, such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and mood swings. A strict gluten-free diet is the only available treatment for celiac disease.

5. Previous infections

Some infections can cause brain damage or inflammation that can lead to mental illness symptoms. For example, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) are linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder in children. Another example is viral infections, which may cause encephalitis that can trigger a variety of mental symptoms, from mood changes to hallucinations.

To rule out physical causes of mental health symptoms, you may need to:

Order blood tests, including thyroid function or antibody tests for celiac disease
Take a full personal and family medical history
Ask your client when they last received a physical exam or primary care checkup
Monitor your client’s diet and sleep habits
Recommend lifestyle changes, such as nutritional supplements

Don’t ignore physical health when treating a behavioral health client. Addressing the potential physical causes of your client’s mental health symptoms can help improve your client’s outcomes, and grow your practice’s value.

OutcomeTools from BestNotes can help you track your clients’ outcomes and administer and record questionnaires, either standardized or custom. Contact us today to learn how our solutions can help your behavioral health organization become more efficient and provide better value.

date:  Dec 27, 2021
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What research tells us about the link between sleep and depression

Experts have known for a long time that there is a link between depression, insomnia, and insufficient sleep. Depression can lead to disturbed sleep, which can worsen depression symptoms, creating a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.

Experts do not fully understand the link between insomnia and depression, but new research continues to shed light on the connection. Let’s take a look at some of that research.

Depression, Insomnia, and Brain Functioning

Several studies have found evidence of brain disturbances among individuals with insomnia symptoms. The disturbances involve several brain regions, including the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, and affect both the brain’s structure and function. The findings, highlighted by a review published in a 2019 issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, still need further study.

An earlier study, published in 2017 in The Journal of Neuroscience, found a link between depression, sleep disturbances, and reward-related brain function. This study focused on a region of the brain called the ventral striatum (VS), which plays a role in behavior related to motivation and goals. In particular, the study authors found that an increase in VS activity led to reduced association between sleep disturbances and depressive symptoms in university students. This suggests that high reward-related VS activity could help protect against the poor sleep associated with depression.

Other Health Conditions Can Accompany Insomnia and Depression

Many different studies have looked at connections between insomnia, depression, and a range of other health conditions. These include physical and behavioral health concerns.

A study in Korea found that both depression and insomnia are significantly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Chronic pruritus, or itchy skin, is significantly associated with insomnia and depression, no matter its cause. Among patients with chronic pruritus, those with symptoms of insomnia or depression had significantly more intense pruritus than those without.
Many dialysis patients experience sleep disturbances. Among patients with earlier-stage chronic kidney disease, however, depressive symptoms were also associated with sleep quality.
In a study of young refugees from North Korea, these individuals were not only likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also insomnia. The greater the levels of PTSD, the higher the likelihood for developing depression-related sleep problems.

Treating Insomnia in Those With Depression

Treating insomnia in clients with depression can lead to improvements in their overall health. Just like other behavioral health conditions, however, treating depression and insomnia may require multiple approaches. You may need to use a trial-and-error approach, and carefully assess each client for changes, improvements, and side effects.

Resolving insomnia may call for a combination of medications, different types of counseling, and lifestyle factors, such as exercise and nutrition. You may consider alternative therapies, as well. For example, research suggests that acupuncture may help some individuals with depression-related insomnia, especially when used in combination with other methods.

When you treat clients with depression, it is important to track sleep quality and other lifestyle factors. The right tools can help you observe your clients over time, so you can make better treatment decisions and see significant improvement, faster.

At BestNotes, we’re working to make life easier for behavioral health providers and the clients they serve. Our EHR solutions help your organization and staff save time, reduce frustration, and increase revenue. Contact us today to learn more.

date:  Dec 21, 2021
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