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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Does Your Gut Health Really Affect Your Mental Health?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


good gut health promotes good mental healthYou’ve heard the expression “it’s a gut-feeling.” Is it merely a coincidence that the gut has been associated with our feelings and our mental health?? Science is revealing some fascinating insights into this question.

Scientific American reports that when a person’s digestion is impaired or leaky gut is present, the symptoms of depression worsen. This may be due to increased autoimmune responses and inflammation. A more recent article explores the connections between gut health and autism.

A NPR story about Dr Emeran Mayer, a profession of medicine and psychiatry at U.C.L.A. reports that gut bacteria influences our minds. He’s researching MRI scans to see how the brain structure compares to the type of bacteria found in the gut. He’s already found some interesting connections. This same story talks about a study on mice and how their brain chemistry and behavior changed when gut microbes were introduced.

Nature reported on a study that found that feeding mice the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis can reverse autism-like symptoms. They found that mice born by caesarean section had significantly more symptoms of depression since they didn’t pick up their mother’s microbes, which they would have done during a vaginal birth.

A recent Huffington Post article reports that treating participants with probiotics lessens negative thinking and depression.

Will all of these findings translate into real treatments for humans? Time will tell. I find these studies fascinating because of their impact on the world of Autistics. They often suffer from gut problems and learning new treatments for them is always exciting.

Improving a person’s physical health will improve their mental health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like assistance in reaching your optimal physical and mental health through holistic methods, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

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.

The Spring Day is so Beautiful…Why Do I Feel so Depressed?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Now that the days are longer and the sun is shining more do you feel energized and happier? Surprisingly, many will answer, “No!” Why is that? This may really surprise you…did you know that the largest number of suicides each year generally occur in May?

Why, if the weather is better and everything looks so hopeful and renewed, do some people react so miserably? While many are feeling more energetic and hopeful, those with depression feel a mounting pressure that they should be feeling happy too. And if they don’t they can plummet into a deeper black hole of hopelessness.

Springtime depression is also connected with change. And highly sensitive people struggle with change. This is especially true for those on the Autism Spectrum. They also suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), seasonal allergies, circadian rhythm disorders, etc. Hence, they are more prone to depression in the spring. There are lots of changes in the air as spring arrives. It is hard enough for us to respond to all of these changes, let alone our Aspies, who are much less adaptable.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: Do you or your loved ones get springtime depression? Learn how to manage your own emotional flux during this time of year while, at the same time, helping the rest of our family members.

In fact, this emotional roller coaster occurs not only now, but is at play during the full moon and other times of the year, so this information is going to be invaluable for you and your family. If you have soothing tips and cognitive reframes that help you during the springtime, share your stories. We can all use a boost to help us ride the wave into summer.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

Is Your Teen Being Held Captive by an Eating Disorder?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


is your teen being held captive by an eating disorderHave you heard about the young woman who was held captive and starved to death? We are horrified by this brutal and inhumane treatment. And no, I’m not referring to any one woman in particular. I’m talking about the thousands of beautiful young women and men in our communities here in Oregon and Washington who are punishing themselves with this cruel behavior! Across the nation there are millions of people who are afflicted with insidious eating disorders. The exact number is impossible to ascertain because this problem is surrounded by secrecy and shame.

Eating Disorders take many shapes. Most of them are connected to poor body or self-image and feelings of being out of control, guilty and ashamed. The good news is – they are treatable. February is Eating Disorder Awareness month, so let’s become more aware of the following eating disorders:

Anorexia nervosa – Because people have an intense fear of being fat, even when they’re not, they starve and exercise themselves to death.

Bulimia nervosa – People uncontrollably eat a large quantity of food and then purge themselves by vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or enemas or go on extreme diets and extreme exercise routines. Because they are trying to hide what they’re doing, they may maintain their weight, so there are no easily apparent signs of the eating disorder.

Binge Eating – People make a practice of rapidly consume a large amount of food at one sitting, which leaves them feeling uncomfortably full, ashamed and depressed.

While the following are not officially classified as eating disorders they also need to be addressed.

Binge Drinking – consuming in one incident four or more drinks for females and five or more drinks for males, has been tied to liver damage, brain damage, risky sexual conduct, immune system suppression, dementia and so many more health hazards.

Obesity – affects at least one third of the US population. While there are medical reasons for obesity, there are also psychological reasons such as using it as an excuse not to achieve more, as a way to ward off sexual advances, and more.

Compulsive, emotional eating – may be used as a distraction to cope with stress and anxiety.

Parents, I urge you to eat together as a family, and if you notice a problem with your children, don’t think they’ll “outgrow this phase”. The longer this behavior goes untreated the more deeply ingrained it becomes. The sooner it’s treated the better the chances are for recovery.

Therapy is very effective for treating eating disorders as it addresses the complex interaction of social, biological and psychological factors involved. The important thing is get help now. Please contact a mental health professional near you today. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to get on the road to recovery.

The Seven Faces of Depression - Who Is Most Likely to Become Depressed?

Thursday, February 12, 2015


women most likely to become depressedHave you ever wondered if you’re at risk for depression? It’s an illness that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, class, or gender. Millions will suffer from depression this year. Who are the most likely to become depressed? What are the determining factors? Following is a list that discusses the various factors that affects depression:

1. GENDER. Women, regardless of nationality or socioeconomic level, have higher rates of depression than men. This may be in part due to hormonal changes often experienced during the days before menstruation, the postpartum period after delivering a baby, and around menopause. Women are also affected by the difference in their social status from men.

2. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS. Being in a low socioeconomic group is a major risk factor for depression. However, people of all income levels are likely to be depressed if they have poor health and are socially isolated.

3. SEVERE OR CHRONIC MEDICAL CONDITIONS. Depression follows or is caused by many medications or serious medical problems.

4. EMOTIONAL AND PERSONALITY DISORDERS. Chronic depression is a frequent companion to anxiety disorders. Personality disorders, such as borderline and avoidant personalities, appear to strongly predispose people to depression.

5. SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND ADDICTIONS. It is estimated that 25% of people with substance abuse problems also have major depression. Internet addiction is a more recent phenomenon that may a pose risk for depression as well.

6. SLEEP DISORDERS. A study of male medical students found that young men who experience insomnia are twice as likely to suffer from depression at middle age.

7. FAMILY HISTORY. A family history of mental illness, especially mood disorders, appears to predispose a patient to the development of depression. Often a combination of genetic, biologic, and environmental factors are at work. Children of depressed parents are at a higher risk for depression and other emotional disorders.

Even if you don’t fall into the categories listed above, if you think you might be depressed don’t delay in getting the help you need! If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.

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.

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression – A Deadly Combination

Monday, January 12, 2015


asperger syndrome and depression is often linked with suicideA large number of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from depression. Scientists don’t know if this is a result of the struggles and rejections they face in life or if it’s because of the way their brains are hard wired. As Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen said in a recently published study on Asperger’s and depression, “Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, underachievement, and unemployment.”

What we now know, regardless of the causes, when your loved one has Asperger’s Syndrome and shows symptoms of depression, alarm bells to go off. The study mentioned above found that there’s a significant increase in suicidality among adults with Asperger’s. They are ten times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicidal attempts than the general population, which is even more than those who have psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Up until now, studies on Asperger’s Syndrome and depression have been concentrating on preadolescents, and they show a low rate of suicidal behavior. So, even though previous studies have shown that there’s a link between autism and suicidal thoughts, these findings about adults with AS come as a surprise to many. What concerns me is that many adults with Asperger’s have lived their lives undiagnosed, so they haven’t sought help from a mental health professional unless they’ve experienced severe mood or psychotic changes.

Nomi Kaim of Asperger/Autism Newtwork (formerly Asperger’s Association of New England or AANE) describes poignantly how depression affects someone with Asperger’s. She highlights the paradoxical battle that goes on inside in the following areas of life:

  • Those with Asperger’s focus on and gain comfort from their special area(s) of interest. Depression steals any delight in doing such activities. This leaves an immense sense of emptiness.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome deal in concrete, black and white thinking. Depression forces them leave the comfort of these thoughts as they have to learn to deal with overwhelming emotions they are unprepared to handle.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome find comfort in being alone. Depression makes it essential to seek out others so they don’t spiral into self-destruction, which causes the pain of socializing to become more pronounced and threatens their sense of being self-sufficient.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome hate to be touched. Depression creates a need for physical yearning to be held and comforted, which, in turn, may leave them feeling violated.

This study highlights the need for us to be alert and prompt about seeking professional help for our Aspie loved ones who are depressed. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Together we can create new ways for them to cope with this situation before it becomes a tragedy.

Morning Person or Night Owl – Which Are You? Does It Matter?

Thursday, December 18, 2014


this woman is a night owl who is sleeping inHave you ever heard the word chronotype? It’s a way of classifying whether your internal circadian clock is set for you to be a night owl or a morning person. Our society is greatly shaped by the belief that early risers will be the movers and shakers and those who are night owls are the partiers and are more creative. We’ve all heard this sentiment in sayings such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” or “The early bird gets the worm”.

The Harvard Review carries an article by Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany on his study of morning people verses evening people and their role in job performance. He found that there’s a genetic predisposition to whether you’re a morning person or night owl. And those who wake up early are more likely to be productive. Morning people anticipate problems and try to minimize them. Evening people, on the other hand, tend to be more creative.

The Huffington Post has an article by Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and board certified sleep specialist, and he reports that the brain structure actually differs between night owls and early risers. “Compared to early risers and intermediates, night owls showed reduced integrity of white matter in several areas of the brain. White matter is fatty tissue in the brain that facilitates communication among nerve cells. Diminished integrity of the brain's white matter has been linked to depression and to disruptions of normal cognitive function.” The article also said night owls are prone to significant tobacco and alcohol use. They are inclined to eat more and have less healthful diets. On the positive side, they tend to be more analytical and have more stamina.

Can a person change from night owl to morning person? According to a recent CNN article, there are 19 ways to trick yourself into becoming a morning person. They involve creating a new routine and having a definite goal in mind. Some of them include:

  • Make the change in 15-minute increments.
  • Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Use that hour to prepare for the next day.
  • Write out your to-do list and get those things off of your mind.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep – darken the room, turn the temperature down to 65˚F.
  • Avoid eating or drinking a lot before going to bed.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button, but get up. Going back to sleep may put you into a deep sleep stage, which will make you really groggy.

A good sleep routine is crucial to optimum health, job performance, and quality of life. A night owl trying to fit into a morning person society may suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects as it can escalate into psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. If you feel this is a problem for you, please contact a mental health care professional in your area. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

By proactively managing your sleep pattern, you could create an extra hour in your day. How would you use it? Please join me on my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Your Thoughts – Are They Making You Healthier or Making You Sicker?

Thursday, December 04, 2014


our thoughts can make us healthier or make us sickerWe know that our thoughts can change the way we feel. Have you ever been so stressed out you got a stomachache or a headache? Your thoughts did that to you. But can your thoughts actually change the brain’s physical make-up?

Scientists, who are studying the neuroplasticity of the brain, are discovering how much our thoughts really do shape our brain and our health. In an earlier article, I shared how different forms of meditation change the structure of the brain. This isn’t surprising because thoughts have physical properties. Every thought sends electrical signals through your brain, which in turn influences every cell of the body. Learning to control negative thinking is one of the most effective ways to have better health.

What health benefits may positive thinking provide?

  • Increase your life span
  • Lessen depression
  • Lessen distress
  • Gain a greater resistance to the common cold
  • Create better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve coping skills during times of stress

But why exactly does positive thinking cause these improvements? Science is still researching this question, yet we do know that there are a number of reasons…

  • Positive people take better care of themselves – they eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
  • They avoid unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, and risky sex, which protects the body from debilitating diseases. 
  • An optimistic outlook lowers the level of cortisol associated with inflammation and raises the chemical that fosters communication between the two halves of the brain.
  • A can-do attitude generates a sense of empowerment and confidence in your abilities in contrast to the self-defeating I-can’t attitude.
  • The qualities of forgiveness, resilience, commitment, challenge, and control combat the harmful feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, resentment, anger and cynicism.
  • Optimistic people are more fun to be around, so they have better relationships with friends and family.

Positive thinking often starts with how you talk to yourself. The best advice is to only say things to yourself that you would say to a dear friend. When a negative thought enters your head, use positive affirmation to replace it. This will keep your brain chemistry in balance.

If you find you’re being controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Healing everyday thought patterns is crucial to gaining optimum health.



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