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Kathy Marshack News

Trauma Sufferers – Yoga and Therapy Can Help You Heal

Monday, July 06, 2015


yoga and therapy can help heal traumatic stressWhen a person experiences a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, a car wreck or sexual abuse, the body from head to toe shifts into the fight or flight mode. Hormones and chemicals race through your body as everything shifts into high gear and hyper-vigilance. Your entire body becomes involved to save your life.

Interestingly, brain scans are now showing what trauma does to the body so that we can tailor treatments that help the person holistically. A key finding is that the speech center shuts down during the traumatic event, which helps explain why many people can’t describe what happened.

Also the part of the brain responsible for experiencing the present moment—the medial prefrontal cortex—shuts down during stress. People who’ve experienced trauma therefore have difficulty processing that information.

Many are finding that a combination of yoga and therapy is helping trauma sufferers to heal.

According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a clinical psychiatrist, founder of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts and a leader in the field of posttraumatic stress:

“Fundamentally, the effect of trauma is in relationship to one’s body. One’s body gives the signal that it’s not safe, and your body keeps fighting an existing enemy… The clinical research and treatment program showed that doing yoga was a more effective treatment for traumatized people...than any medication that had ever been studied. Opening up that relationship with your body, opening up your body to breathe, and to feel your body is very important.

It’s great to be able to put your feelings into words, and feeling that somebody understands your suffering is enormously comforting. But it doesn’t make your body know that you are safe. The real method is resetting your physiology.”

However Dr Bessel van der Kolk recommends yoga in conjunction with working with a person who has special trauma therapy training. “None of my patients have been able to tolerate a yoga program if they weren’t in therapy at the same time. Too much painful stuff comes up.” If you’re ready to try this treatment and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

For more information on my website: Therapy FAQ and Depression and Stress.

Your Child Struggling with Uncontrolled Temper or Aggressive Behavior?

Monday, May 18, 2015


child struggling with uncontrolled temper or aggressive behaviorRecently I watched a video by Dr. Daniel Amen M.D. where he discusses how, after researching 100,000 brain scans, he’s discovered that actual brain damage is contributing to emotional problems such as anger issues and even brutal killings. Judges and defense attorneys often consult with Dr. Amen in order to understanding criminal behavior. While he does not in any way condone what these criminals have done, he’s made some fascinating discoveries by studying their brains.

For example, after looking at Kip Kinkle’s brain in 1998, (you may remember he shot 25 at his school, killing two plus his parents in Springfield, OR) he found that sometime in the past this person had suffered either deprivation of oxygen or some type of infection that made his the worst 15-year-old brain scan that Dr. Amen had ever seen.

What can we learn about rehabilitating people who have aggressive behavior and are violent? By taking their entire history and imaging the brain, we can discover the biological, psychological, and social reasons why they’re acting the way they do.

When we see homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD and suicide, we should seriously look at the health of the brain for answers. The good news is we can prevent these brain injuries from escalating into hurtful behavior, either towards themselves or towards others. They can be rehabilitated if it’s caught early enough!

Is your son or daughter troubled with anxiety, depression, anger, or destructive behavior? Please do not ignore these symptoms or dismiss them as typical teen moods. Seek help immediately to determine if there’s a physical or psychological cause. That way the problem can be resolved now, so he or she can live a happy and productive life. Brain health can be restored. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to find out how.

Watch Dr. Amen's video for the very emotional success story of how he helped a young man go from a troubled youth to an American hero.

Pets Are Good for Your Physical and Mental Health

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


owning a pet is good for your physical and mental healthAhhh…who can resist those puppy eyes? We’ve known for sometime that pets are good therapy for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and PTSD. Now a recent New York Times article adds further proof that there is a beneficial hormonal change occurring when you and your dog makes eye contact.

Research shows that gazing into those big puppy eyes elevates the level of oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin is the hormone that bonds a parent with a child and is related to stress and anxiety relief, thereby lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels.

In a Smithsonian article about how dogs help veterans with PTSD, Meg Daley Olmert who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection, says, “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms.”

Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted a 2011 study on the potential benefits of pet ownership physically and mentally. Some of the benefits of pet ownership were increased feelings of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence while staving off feelings of rejection. Pet owners were more physically fit and less lonely or fearful.

Psychiatrist, Ian Cook, MD, who is also director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, adds another benefit, "Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression. Other studies show that children raised with pets have fewer allergies.

Have you tried owning a pet and still are struggling with anxiety, depression or PTSD? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can discuss more options for helping you obtain your optimal physical and mental health.

Neuroscience – Unlocking the Mystery of the Theory of Mind and Empathy

Friday, March 27, 2015


Through brain-mapping, neuroscience is unlocking the mystery of the theory of mind and empathyEmpathy has long been an enigma to me. I have written two books that explore empathy disorders among those with Asperger Syndrome. Problems with empathy explain why folks with ASD struggle in their relationships with loved ones. And it explains why those loved ones are often furious with their ASD partners and family members. Yes, it’s true that we humans are a product of nature and nurture. However, with the advent of neuroscience that can peer into the workings of a live brain, we’re finding powerful evidence that a huge chunk of empathy is hard wired.

A recent New York Times article reports about this in the context of trying to peacefully integrate the Roma (many call them Gypsy) into Hungarian society by busing the children to different schools. It’s reminiscent of the race struggle that occurred in the United States. What’s interesting is that now, with greater understanding of how empathy works, they’re applying new techniques to resolving these issues.

Emile Bruneau, cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has spent years studying conflicts in Israel and the West Bank, along the U.S./Mexican border and within the political parties of Democrats and Republicans, is on the scene trying to find out, through brain-mapping, when and how empathy breaks down.

Neuroscientists have already mapped out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain. Theory of Mind (ToM is a theory because the mind in not directly observable) is the ability to attribute beliefs, intentions, desires, imaginations, emotions, etc., to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own. Within that ToM network, they’re pinpointing specific tasks such as how the brain makes moral judgments.

How will things turn out for those in Hungary? Time will tell. Many of the conflict-resolution programs have not worked well because they haven’t tapped into the power of empathy. While many are empathetic toward their own family and group, they are able to mute their empathy toward their “enemy”. We’re hopeful that intervening on a psychological level will make societal intervention more effective.

Empathy is an important component to peaceful family, business and community relationships. Each act of true empathy brings us closer to happiness. Do you find yourself struggling with controlling your emotions, so that you can truly see how others are feeling? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can discuss techniques and tools that can help you improve in your art of empathy.

I Applaud Chris Borland for Making Brain Health Number One

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Kudos to Chris Borland for retiring from football to protect his brain health

This week’s news was full of San Francisco 49er's linebacker, Chris Borland, retiring at the age of 24 from NFL football because of his concern about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).


It couldn’t have been easy turning his back on the money and fame that was before him. I imagine he had pressure to continue from his teammates, coach and sponsors. The peer pressure to continue must have been enormous.

For years, I have been warning of the damage done by Traumatic Brain Injuries caused by the blows to the head while playing football. The seriousness cannot be understated, for it does damage to one’s physical and mental health, changing forever family relationships and future prospects. I’m definitely not alone in my concerns, renowned brain specialists, such as Dr. Daniel Amen have been drawing attention to the risks our young athletes are running. Click here to hear what Dr. Daniel Amen says about this.

We all wish Chris a long, happy and healthy life. We applaud his courage in standing up and saying the risk was not worth it. The more the spotlight is shown on this danger, the better the chances are for a real change. Thank you, Chris.

Does Chronic Anxiety Have You in its Grip?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


chronic anxiety for no apparent reasonDo you suffer from feelings of chronic anxiety, but you can’t figure out why? Perhaps you’ve even tried psychotherapy, but it doesn’t work. There doesn’t seem to be any psychological reason for it.

A recent New York Times article sheds light on a possible reason for chronic anxiety. It reports that only a minority of us have what they call “the feel good gene”. The genetic variation in the brain they’re talking about is having less of the enzyme called FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), which in turn results in an increased level of anandamide.

What is anandamide?

According to medical dictionaries, it’s “a derivative of arachidonic acid that occurs naturally in the brain and in some foods (as chocolate) and that binds to the same brain receptors as the cannabinoids (as THC)”. No wonder it’s called “the bliss molecule or our natural marijuana”.

It has two main benefits: it makes some feel less anxious and more able to forget fearful experiences.

A group of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College studied the affect of the FAAH variant gene. They found that it enhances the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which results in lower anxiety. They also found another benefit – it enhances fear extinction. If this can be tapped into, people who have suffered from traumatic life experiences could recover more quickly. They released their study results in a recent edition of Nature Communications.

We all have anandamide, however it’s estimated that 20 percent of U.S. adults have more. Not surprisingly, some who don’t possess this genetic variation self-medicate with other substances, such as marijuana, to relieve their anxiety.

Does this mean you have no choice? That you’re genetically predisposed to use marijuana? Not at all. Everyone has a choice. You can choose to rely on marijuana, which dulls your cognitive abilities or you can learn other methods to manage your anxiety, such as meditation or retraining your brain. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to learn what all of your options are for living without chronic anxiety.

Read more on my website: Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, and Phobias.

How Can We Help Those Who Have Sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


traumatic brain injury from footballAccording to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) each year an estimated 2.4 million U.S. adults and children sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and another 795,000 individuals sustain an acquired brain injury (ABI) from non-traumatic causes. TBI’s affect the thinking, reasoning, and memory and can severely impact the lives of the victim and their families.

To create greater awareness of the resources available to those who have sustained a TBI, BIAA leads the nation in observing National Brain Injury Awareness Month every March. They offer resources for families, medical professionals, and military families. Their awareness campaign this year has the theme: Not Alone.

In their own words, “this campaign focuses on educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.” You can follow them on social media and help them spread the word using the hashtag #NotAloneinBrainInjury.

The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force (CBITF), co-chaired by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), has set Wednesday, March 18th, for Brain Injury Awareness Day for 2015.

Over the years, I’ve reported on the seriousness of brain concussions in the following articles:

Shining the Spotlight on Women Suffering from Concussions
Parents - How to Protect Your Child's Brain When They Play Sports
Parents – Have You Weighed the Risk of Football?
Parents - Protect Your Child's Brain
Brain Injuries Causing Long-term Damage
SPECT Imaging of the Brain Reveals Hidden Reasons for Behavior

There is hope for those who suffer traumatic brain injury to regain a measure of health in order to lead a meaningful and productive life. I use medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements to help heal the brain. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to begin the road to recovery.

How to Create an Inner Joy that Lasts Despite Upsetting Circumstances

Thursday, March 05, 2015


how to create an inner joy that lasts despite upsetting circumstances“He makes me so happy!” Or “She makes me soooo mad!”

Have you ever heard someone say something like that? Have you said it yourself? Of course, our emotions are affected by those around us. However, when you really think about this…can someone make you feel a certain way? If that’s the case, wouldn’t we in reality be saying we have little control over our emotions?

Wouldn’t it be better to create an inner joy, that no matter what’s happening around you, you could draw from this resource to maintain happiness and peace? Yet, many ask, “How can an inner joy like that be developed?

Let’s first answer the question: Is there any truth in the statement, “Fake it till you make it?” According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Simulation studies on emotion have shown that facial actions can initiate and modulate particular emotions.” What does that mean? Even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you paste a smile on your face and hold it, this will change the way that you’re feeling emotionally.

Their study also showed that specific areas of the brain were activated by facial manipulation – “the inferior parietal lobule, left supplementary motor area, superior parietal lobule, precuneus, and bilateral middle cingulum – which influenced the recognition of emotional facial expressions”. So yes, it’s true. Smile and you will become happier.

The same institution found that we are hardwired to respond to emotional cues from others. When we become aware of this, we can consciously choose how we’ll react to situations that we’re confronted with daily. At the same time, we become more aware of how our emotions affect others. In this way, we can intentionally create a positive shift in all of our relationships.

Are you ready to reclaim the power that inner joy can give you? A NET Practitioner can help you learn to control your responses to the emotional triggers in your life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

Read more on my website: What Is a NET Practitioner? and How Does Neuro Emotional Technique Work?

Seven Tips for a Healthier Brain

Thursday, February 26, 2015


seven tips for a healthier brain

Imagine what it would be like to feel more cheerful…to think more clearly…to have a better memory…


Who of us wouldn’t like that? If there was a magic pill that you could take once a day that guaranteed those results, wouldn’t you take it? If only it was that easy! Since you’re willing to DO something to improve your brain health, what realistically can you do?

Here are seven proven tips to improve the health of your brain:

  1. Focus on promoting good blood circulation because a third of your brain’s volume is blood vessels.
  2. Walk 20 minutes three times a week because this increases flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and prevents or reduces plaque buildup.
  3. Eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including vegetables, whole grains, wild salmon, grass fed beef, fruit, good fats like avocado and olive oil.
  4. Get vitamin B12 and folic acid from eating green leafy veggies, meat, fish and yogurt because this gives you the amino acid homocysteine, which is associated with reducing the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
  5. Strive for better stress relief, which is as easy as increasing your laughter, because this reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which damages the hippocampus. Meditation also increases the size of the hippocampus.
  6. Socialize more because this provides mental stimulation, plus helps you deal with stress.
  7. Challenge your brain by playing games, learning a musical instrument or a new language.

Perhaps you’ve tried making these changes in the past. However, you quickly gave up because it felt too overwhelming.

As with any habit, it’s best to tackle one goal at a time. So pick one thing from the list that you’d like to change in your life and focus on that for the next three months. Write out your intention. Schedule on your calendar how you’re going to implement it every day, every week for the next three months. When you go to bed at night, create a picture in your mind about how you’re going to feel and look so much better because you make these changes. All of these tips will help you make your goal part of your new routine. When you’ve created that new habit, pick another goal and work on that one.

Do you need someone to guide you and hold you accountable as you create new healthy habits? That’s nothing to be ashamed of. We spend a lifetime creating the bad habits, so it’s not surprising that it’s not easy to change. A mental health professional can help you create new patterns that will support you in your quest for optimal health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to learn more? The CNN article and slideshow, Chronic Stress Can Hurt Your Memory is very helpful.

Is Your Chronic Stress or Depression Setting You Up for Dementia?

Monday, February 02, 2015


Did you realize that depression and chronic stress (of any kind) can lead to dementia or Alzheimer's? It’s also a precursor to heart disease if it goes untreated. Using SPECT Imaging, Dr. Daniel Amen has shown that how we choose to react to life’s losses, crises or major illnesses can either shorten or extend our longevity.

When you suffer the loss of a loved one or experience a major illness, do you react with depression, anxiety or drinking alcohol? Then it’s predicted you are significantly shortening your lifespan. Those who stay mentally healthy, despite the problems, usually live five years longer. Does that mean you don’t grieve over loss or have stress? No. What it does mean is that you don’t react to it in self-harming ways. You don’t use this negative event as an excuse to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol or beat yourself up with negative thinking.

Watch Dr. Amen's video and find two inspirational stories of triumph over loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity and addiction. You’ll learn from these stories the follow gems:

  • "The best time to start healing from a crisis is before it starts.
  • Giving yourself the excuse to eat bad food, drink alcohol or smoke pot to deal with the pain only prolongs it.
  • Never let a crisis be an excuse to hurt yourself.
  • Whenever you feel sad, stressed or out of control, take care of your brain first.
  • Treat depression now before it causes further damage, don’t wait for it simply to go away.
  • Made good, conscientious decisions, rather than simply reacting.
  • Engage in regular brain healthy habits like exercise and new learning.
  • Begin taking brain smart supplements that include fish oil and Vitamin D.
  • Employ meditation to calm your mind and boost your brain at the same time.
  • Stop believing every negative thought that goes through your head!
  • Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or out of control, write down your automatic negative thoughts and ask yourself, are they true?"

Sometimes the subtle signs of dementia are not picked up right away. Some symptoms to look for are asking the same question repeatedly, forgetfulness, fatigue, memory loss for things that you should know how to do, and neglecting personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition. It’s crucial to treat brain problems early, which includes learning how to deal with stress and loss. So I urge you, if you or a loved one is displaying symptoms of depression or anxiety, please consult a trained therapist immediately. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression and Managing Stress.



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