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Kathy Marshack News

How Do our Genes Affect our Choice of Friends and Spouse?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


genetic similarities cause attraction between the sexesWhy do we pick specific people to be our friends and spouse? New research shows that it’s because our nose can detect genetic similarities and differences in the people that you meet. Not only that, but your nose attracts you to the ones that are more genetically compatible with you.

A recent CNN article, We're genetically linked to our friends, discusses a study that suggests we are attracted to people who are more genetically like us. They quote James Fowler, coauthor of the study and professor of medical genetics and political science at UC San Diego, "Looking across the whole genome, we find that on average, we are genetically similar to our friends. We have more DNA in common with the people we pick as friends than we do with strangers in the same population."

He and his coauthor Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology, evolutionary biology and medicine at Yale, have spent the last ten years searching for the biological explanation behind how we interact socially.

What have they learned?

They found that our DNA dictates the social activities we enjoy. Hence our friends, who enjoy the same things, do so because they are genetically like us. And the genes that most greatly impact our choices are the olfactory (sense of smell) genes and the genes controlling our immune system.

Another CNN article from 2011, The power of smell in picking sex partners, discussed two other studies that corroborate these findings. We all have a unique “odor print” like we have a unique fingerprint. That “odor print” is found in the part of the gene responsible for immune response known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). Women prefer the scent of men whose MHCs are different from their own.

This contributes to people finding marriage mates that they are compatible with, who like to do the same things, while at the same time are able to avoid inbreeding and thereby can produce stronger immune systems in their children. What a unique way to keep the human race as healthy as possible! How interesting to learn that we use our nose to pick those we’re closest to.

Humans are so complex in the way everything must function harmoniously. When something gets out of balance our emotions, thinking and actions can become uncontrolled and erratic. That’s why it’s so important to approach mental health issues with a holistic approach – treating the whole person and including nutrition, exercise and proper sleep in that treatment. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area and would like to consult with me about how a holistic approach can help you achieve optimum mental health, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website – Holistic Health and Advice for Singles.

Mapping the Brain – What This Means for Mental Health

Monday, August 11, 2014


brain mapping and what this means for mental healthIn 2013, President Obama launched a $100 million initiative to unlock the mysteries of the brain so that brain disorders can be better understood and treated. Now, one year later, the journal Nature reports on the progress toward understanding the function of the brain.

For many years researchers have focused on only certain areas of the brain, so it’s been impossible to sift through these widely dispersed findings and see the function of the brain as a whole. Now a new project is underway to map how the entire brain is connected and how it functions. Once they understand what a normal brain looks like, they can compare diseased brains and see what areas are affected by that particular disease.

To date, they have successfully completed a map of the brain of a mouse. Often rodent brains are the first line of examination since they possess only 75 million neurons, whereas the human brain possesses 86 billion neurons. This map is called the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas and is publicly available.

Because of the advances in computer and imaging technology, the Human Brain Project, an European initiative now feels confident that they can map the entire human brain. See a 3-D view of the connections that have already been discovered here.

This is good news for those who suffer behavioral problems, brain injuries and brain disease. Once the damage is understood, better treatments can be developed. For now, the use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can often help heal the brain. This is the type of holistic health regimen that I often use with clients.

Learn more about holistic healing on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health.

For more information about the brain – Type the word brain into the search box on my blog and scroll through my previous articles about the fascinating things that have already been discovered.

Three Ways to Avoid Toxic Life Choices

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Make your choice positive not a toxic life choiceWhen you review the people you’ve let into your life, are they supportive of you or do some of them make you feel bad about yourself every time you talk with them? When things go wrong in life, do you feel like it’s always some else’s fault? When you meet someone, do you find yourself trying to become the kind of person you believe they want you to be, rather than being yourself? All of these responses can lead to toxic life choices.

The level of your happiness is largely dependent on you and your choices. If you find that you’re struggling through the same problems over and over again, it’s a good indicator that you need to consciously make different choices. As Albert Einstein described it…”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

How can you begin to make better decisions that help you avoid toxic life choices? Here are three suggestions:

#1 Be Aware of How You Feel
It’s important to remember that you always experience your feelings first. Emotions, such as, happiness, confusion, pain, pride, boredom, or fear, determine how we will respond to situations. Closely following our feelings are our thoughts or interpretations that come from those feelings.

Interestingly, those with Autism aren’t as likely to make irrational decisions that are influenced by “a gut feeling”. Of course, this emotional disconnect creates difficulties in social situations, but it enable them to avoid potentially irrelevant emotional information and make more consistent choices. This illustrates that it’s useful to create self-awareness of your feelings so you think before you act, thereby using emotions to make good decisions.

#2 Be Yourself
Rather than worrying about what others think, ask yourself what’s important to you? What do you want you life to be like? How can you be the best YOU? Trying to please others and do things that we think they want, is a pretense and it will lead you to choices and results that will be toxic to you.

#3 Be Vulnerable
It’s a sign of strength to ask for help when you need it. None of us know everything. So we don’t need to pretend that we do. On the other hand, if you always rely on everyone to fix things for you, you won’t learn how to grow. Finding the balance depends on you being willing to ask for help and then being willing to do the work.

It’s never too late to make your life richer and more meaningful. You can change how you react to situations so you avoid toxic choices and can make good choices that support you. If you continue to struggle with personal problems, you may need to seek professional help and that’s okay.

For more information, visit When to Seek Professional Help for Personal Problems.

Jumping to Negative Conclusions Can Harm Your Brain

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


cynical thinking can harm your brainCan viewing others positively not only improve your relationships but also actually enable you to live a longer and healthier life? That question prompted a group of scientists and researchers from the University of Eastern Finland to study the affect of cynical distrust on health. They specifically researched people who doubt others, imputing selfish motives to everything’s that’s said and done. The CNN article, Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk, reports on some of their findings.

This study as well as others, have shown that cynical thinking may cause cancer-related deaths, dementia, cardiovascular disease and more. Why does a cynical attitude affect the body so detrimentally? This is a very complex question. The article mentioned a number of contributing factors:


  • People with a cynical attitude tend to make poor health decisions, such as smoking more, abusing alcohol, exercising less, and compulsively eating.
  • Poor health decisions lead to cardiovascular disease that damages the blood flow to the brain, which contributes to dementia.
  • Poor health habits and stress increase inflammation in the immune system, leading to many diseases.
  • Since cynical people doubt what they hear, they also doubt their health care professionals, which leads them to ignoring their advice.

If you recognize yourself in this, don’t despair. The good news is that attitudes can be changed. This can lead you to a much happier life with less stress, better physical health, and better relationships. It’s taken a lifetime to develop a cynical pattern of thinking, so it may require that you seek some professional guidance to help you cultivate a more positive way of thinking. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Join my on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and let’s talk about what you’ve found helpful in cultivating a positive outlook on life.

To learn more, read on my website: Mind & Body Health.

Balance Worry with Hope to Come Up With the Best Solutions

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Balance Worry wit Hope for best solutionsDo you worry? I worry. It’s natural to worry about all kinds of things. Not that all of this worrying accomplishes much. However it can serve a useful purpose if it directs your attention to problem solving. I think worriers, more than most take a hard cold look at reality. The problem is you can scare yourself to death if you’re worrying about things you can’t control.

A better approach is to use your worries as incentive to search for solutions. You can do this by balancing your worry with hopefulness. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking only on the bright side of everything, like the proverbial ostrich with his or her head stuck in the sand. You need to realistically account for the negative side of things, so you can plan and live your life fully.

This reminds me of a profound statement by Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” If we want something to change, we need to create that change. What are some practical steps to raising your consciousness or level of thinking? Here are seven ways this can be done…

  • Solutions come when we tear ourselves away from our negativity. (Hope tells us there’s a better way to live.
  • Solutions come from focusing on what is right, good, pure, and loving. (Hope tells us that we’ll receive back what we put out to the world.)
  • Solutions come when we first take care of your own mental, physical and spiritual health. (Hope tells us that this will give us the strength and energy needed.)
  • Solutions come when we give ourselves to others. (Hope tells us that we can make the world a better place.)
  • Solutions come when we are grateful. (Hope tells us that every day there will be something wonderful.)
  • Solutions come when we believe that the challenges we are facing are a gift. (Hope tells us that we will see our weakness and strengths and we can grow.)
  • Solutions come when your goals are realistic. (Hope tells you that you can do it.)

If you have faith and hope you will not only come through hardship but you will be better for it. Like me you may still worry, but let those worries guide you to the kind of solutions that can only come from your indomitable human spirit. If you’re struggling in a dark place of hopelessness, get help immediately from a mental health care professional. Life is too wonderful to waste. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment.

Does Stress Make Your Allergies Worse?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Allergy symptoms worsen with stressWhy is it that, while your allergies don’t normally hit you so hard, today of all days it’s much worse? Why does this have to happen right before your big presentation at work? Or the week of your wedding? Your eyes water uncontrollably, you sneeze and wheeze, and your skin rash itches like crazy. Are you just imagining it? Or could there be a correlation between stressful situations and increased allergies reactions? According to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers, stress can indeed be a factor in allergy flare-ups.

The author of the study, allergist Amber Patterson makes this interesting comment, “We know there's a connection between our neurology and our immunology. What we ultimately found is that some people with allergies have a more sensitive neuro-immunologic trigger.”

Knowing this connection, allergy sufferers can alleviate stress by:


A free resource you might want to try is WildDivine’s Schedule of Recent Experience. It’s a tool to help you understand how recent events in your life can be contributing toward your stress levels. Once you gain this awareness, you can take appropriate actions to solve the underlining stressors.

If you can’t get your allergies under control by yourself, consult a certified allergist and ask if stress is a contributing factor. He or she can recommend a trained psychologist who can help you manage that stress. Or you can contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver,WA office and schedule an appointment As a NET practitioner, my clients have found Neuro Emotional Technique and hypnosis to be very effective in treating allergic reactions due to stress.


Please join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how stress has affected your allergies.

Learn more on my website – Managing Stress.

Get Off the Roller Coaster of Food Addiction by Retraining Your Genes

Monday, May 19, 2014


Get off the Food Addiction Roller CoasterNow that warmer weather is coming, many people are desperate to shed the unwanted pounds that have crept on during the winter. You see all kinds of crash diets being promoted and many try them. Does this cycle sound familiar?

For many, every year it’s the same roller coaster – lose weight – develop cravings – eat compulsively – gain weight – diet again. We all know this is harmful behavior, but knowing that isn’t enough to fix the problem.

The answer lies in our genes.

Yes, some are predisposed to be more sensitive to food than others, just as some are predisposed to the effects of alcohol. However, there’s so much more than our inherited genetics going on in this equation. Our genes have our unique information encoded in them. When our bodies are healthy, the genes easily and accurately transmit their information throughout the body. But if something detrimental is introduced, the genes lose their ability to communicate accurately.

Neuroscience is proving that the types of foods we eat, such as, excessively fatty, sugary, and salty foods alter the brain chemistry at a genetic level. But that’s not all. Other research shows that overeating any food can alter the brain chemistry. When a person dumps all of these excesses into the system, the genes release great quantities of dopamine so that a person gets a feel-good high comparable to what’s felt by those who use cocaine. This becomes addictive, especially if your life is stressful or you have unresolved emotional problems. So you begin a cycle of overdoing it regularly in order to feel good. This pattern of behavior interferes with how the genes communicate.

Once a person has become addicted to food and has rewritten their genetic makeup, can it be reversed? Most definitely yes, you can make it easier for your genes to communicate once again. Each time you choose to engage in a healthy behavior, you are rewriting your genetic makeup.

What are some healthy behaviors that support good genetic function?


Our bodies are amazing machines. Knowing that you can change how your genes function by the choices you make is empowering. You can change who you are from the inside out. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Would you like to improve the quality of your life by getting off the dieting roller coaster forever? Take the first step and get a physical from your doctor, then consult a mental health professional who can help you stay on track. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and schedule an appointment today.

For more information, read my website – Weight Control and Holistic Health.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Heals the Psychological AND Biological Damage from PTSD

Friday, March 28, 2014


Cognitive behavioral therapy heals the psychological and biological damage from post traumatic stress disorderPost-traumatic stress disorder may result from a person experiencing a life threatening experience or witnessing one. Examples of things that can trigger it include being involved in a traffic accident, suffering abuse as a child, experiencing combat, surviving a natural disaster, being a victim of crime or even being a first responder in an emergency situation. It manifests itself with symptoms such as depression and anxiety. And it creates actual physical changes to the body, specifically the brain.


One way the body is altered by PTSD is that the gene that regulates our stress response, identified as FKBP5, is altered. Its function is reduced, causing the stress hormones (cortisol response) to become activated for a longer period of time. This makes a person more susceptible to stress related mental disorders.

Another way the body is altered by PTSD is that different areas of the brain are changed. The Hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores long-term memory, becomes smaller. The Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex, the part of the brain that’s involved in fear conditioning, also becomes smaller. Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain-imaging expert who I deeply respect, writes in greater detail on this topic.

Can a person’s mental and biological health be improved even at the genetic level? Most definitely yes. A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) not only helps to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also heals the damage done at the genetic level.

After being treated by CBT, the people in the study experience increased Hippocampus volume and the gene FKBP5 functioned better (called higher gene expression). There wasn’t any significant change to the Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex.

The results of this study are thrilling. Its proof that the brain can be healed physically and psychologically. While medication and surgery have their places, it’s eye opening to see that psychotherapy is a very effective alternative for healing the mind and body. This holistic approach is key to how NET Practitioners help their patients manage PTSD. They teach their patients how to conquer the feeling of helplessness by taking control of their thoughts and emotions. They also teach techniques for relaxation. If you’re ready to get relief from the crippling effects of PTSD and achieve your optimum wellness, please contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to set up an appointment.

Do you have general questions about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or N.E.T.? Join me on Facebook and we can discuss it.

One Woman’s Inspiring Journey to Wellness

Thursday, March 20, 2014


hope of mental and physical wellness through holistic health approachIf you heard of a woman who struggled with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and depression, who sought treatment through many medications, ongoing psychotherapy, electro-convulsive therapy, hospitalizations, and yet attempted suicide multiple times, would you hold out much hope that she would get better?

It may sound hopeless, yet her inspiring journey proves that we can change. Gayathri Ramprasad is a mother and homemaker. Her story on CNN proves that where we are right now can be changed to where we want to be. While recovering in the hospital from her last suicide attempt, she made up her mind to take charge of her life and create a life of wellness. She was tired of being chronically mentally ill and wanted to be well.

Despite the fears of many, she weaned herself off all medications under the supervision of her psychiatrist and turned to a holistic health approach as a way to achieve wellness.

First, she explored transcendental meditation. In the beginning, she couldn’t sit still or be calm. In time, however, she acquired those skills. She learned how to become aware of her thoughts and emotions. Instead of letting them control her, she began to control them and to live more purposefully.

Secondly, she joined a health club and started aerobics, free weights, and yoga classes three times a week. She found that exercise energized her and elevated her mood. It also helped her create a social network outside of her family.

Lastly, she learned how cognitive behavioral therapy could transform her life. Her therapist proved to her that thoughts, feelings, moods and behavior are interconnected. To change her world she needed to identify negative, faulty thoughts and replace them with positive, life-affirming thoughts.

While this approach may not work for everyone, I believe you have all the resources within you to make changes that are as dramatic as these. My role as a therapist is to assist you in discovering these inner resources and drawing them out so you can fully utilize them. If you want to achieve your optimum health and wellness, please contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment. Do you have non-confidential questions about how cognitive behavioral therapy works? Join me on Facebook and let’s discuss it.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Are We on the Verge of a Drug-Free Cure for Depression?

Friday, February 21, 2014


the cure for insomnia and depression linked togetherResearch is being done on the causal link between insomnia and depression. And the results are very promising. They are finding that treating insomnia will also alleviate the suffering of depression. That is good news!

I was happy to read The New York Times’ report about recent studies that are confirming this. A team at Ryerson University in Toronto found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia resolved the insomnia for 87 percent of the patients within four treatment sessions.

The bonus to this treatment of insomnia is that these patients also had their depression symptoms disappear, almost twice the rate of those whose insomnia was not cured.

Another study from Stanford University gives us similar hope. The patients all suffered from insomnia plus depression, and they were all taking an antidepressant pill. Sixty percent of those given seven sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia in addition to the pill recovered fully from their depression, compared with only 33 percent in a control group that got the standard advice for treating sleeplessness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy grew out of a need for solving problems that more traditional therapies couldn’t. Depression, for example, can take months of therapy, so many people resort to anti-depressant medication for more immediate relief. Now that we see the link between insomnia and depression we can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to teach people to establish and stick to a regular wake-up time, avoid daytime napping, spend less time in bed, and reserve bed only for sleeping – not watching TV, snacking or reading.


As the studies above reveal, this treatment may not take very many sessions, but the results are spectacular. NET practitioners like myself have known for some time that the mind/body must be treated in a holistic mannerIf you think insomnia is playing a role in your depression and you want to get to the root of your health problems, perhaps it’s time to look into Cognitive Behavior Therapy. If you are looking for a holistic approach to your mental health issues, contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington, and set up an appointment.

Do you have questions about how therapy works? See my FAQ page for the answers.



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