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Kathy Marshack News

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.

How Much Do You Know About Memory?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


how much do you know about memoryMemory is such an important part of our lives. It helps define who we are. It assists us in our relationships with others. And it definitely affects the decisions we make. So much of this is done without our even thinking about it. That is…until we start to lose our ability to remember. Then we wish we could do something to decrease memory loss. The good news is that there are things you can do to support your brain’s memory functions.

First, though, WebMD has a fun and interesting memory quiz to test how much you already know about how memory works and what affect our choices have on the quality of memory. You’ll learn the answers to the following questions:

Can sex trigger amnesia?
Does pregnancy cause “baby brain”?
How long do memory problems due to smoking marijuana last?
How does déjà vu work?
At what age do we start losing brain cells?
Why can you remember a song from your youth, but can’t remember someone’s name?
Why and how does – skipping breakfast, poor eyesight, working crosswords, drinking alcohol, taking statin drugs, antihistamines and sleeping pills – affect your memory?
Why does a sudden, high-stress event boost your memory?
Is the memory loss from perimenopause permanent?
Why does rest or sleep enhance memory?
What foods can boost memory?
Why do some diseases cause “brain fog”?

The function of the brain can be improved by holistic health choices that help you control memory-damaging stress, getting enough exercise, keeping your mind active and improving your concentration. A NET practitioner can help you not only protect your brain but even retrain your brain to cope with the brain fog caused by painful illnesses such as fibromyalgia. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about memory on Psychology Today and PsychCentral.

Studies Show that Cell Phones and Smartphones Damage Relationships

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


studies show that cell phones and smartphones damage relationshipsDoes it bother you when you try to have a conversation with someone and they keep their cell phone in hand, ever ready to interrupt you in order to send a text or talk to someone who calls? You say it doesn’t? Well, research is showing that it really can have a larger impact on our relationships than you might think.

A recent CNN article by Ron Friedman collected a variety of studies that shows the distracting nature of having a visible cell phone. Visibility rather than actual ringing or using the phone was studied and how that affected a person’s task performance , as well as, interaction between people. The following four areas were researched:

Concentration: American Psychological Association published a study wherein the participants were asked to perform a task – some with the cell phone visible, some without. And they found that the ones who could see the phone did nearly 20% worse on the task. Their minds were distracted by the possibility of receiving a call or message.

Perception of Others: Another study at the University of Essex found that visible cell phones change how we perceive new acquaintances. It made them seem “less understanding and less trustworthy. They were also more skeptical that further dialogue with their partner would yield a close friendship.”

Quality of Conversation: Virginia Tech did a follow-up study that confirmed that visible cell phones change the actual quality of in-person conversations because there’s less eye contact, which makes a person miss the subtle but essential social interactions, i.e., facial expressions and tone of voice.

Memory Formation: The Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology study shows that constantly checking messages or emails via your phone interferes with long-term memory formation because your brain isn’t given the rest it needs.

What can you do to make sure your smartphone isn’t damaging your relationships?

  • Turn off the email bell and pop-up message so your brain doesn’t constantly have to decide whether or not to interrupt your task.
  • Create set times to check your emails and messages.
  • Schedule phone-free times to start and finish important tasks.
  • Turn your phone off and put it away when talking with someone in person.

Do you find that technology is controlling your behavior? It’s not too late to regain control. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can help you learn to redefine and focus on what is important. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Not only can your health improve, so will your business and personal relationships.

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.

How Does the Brain Make Moral Judgments?

Monday, December 29, 2014


brain research reveals how the brain makes moral judgmentsHow do you determine what’s right and what’s wrong for yourself? How do you judge the actions and ethics of others? Are we hardwired with a set of standards? What accounts for the differences among people? Neuroscience of morality is uncovering the remarkable way in which reason and emotion activate the brain networks when we make decisions, especially moral judgments.

As studies are conducted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) patterns are emerging, which give us clues as to what is going on in the brain. A CNN article, “How your brain makes moral judgments”, reports on many of these findings. Here are a few that I found fascinating…

Joshua D. Greene, associate professor at Harvard University, published an influential study in 2001. His study suggests that the three brain structures involved in the emotional processes that influence moral decisions are the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and angular gyrus. Other studies also confirm that these areas, as well as the ventral prefrontal cortex are activated in processing moral judgments.

And there’s evidence that supports that we are hard-wired to activate these regions as we’re confronted with moral dilemmas.

Randy Buckner and colleagues wrote a 2008 study that says in part:

“Thirty years of brain imaging research has converged to define the brain's default network…(this) default network is active when individuals are engaged in internally focused tasks including autobiographical memory retrieval, envisioning the future, and conceiving the perspectives of others.”

His study goes on to say that this default network can be defined by the interaction of multiple subsystems in the brain, i.e.,

“The medial temporal lobe subsystem provides information from prior experiences in the form of memories and associations that are the building blocks of mental simulation. The medial prefrontal subsystem facilitates the flexible use of this information during the construction of self-relevant mental simulations. These two subsystems converge on important nodes of integration including the posterior cingulate cortex.”

Understanding the brain’s networking systems will enable us to better understand those with impaired abilities to make good moral judgments – which includes various mental disorders. Until there’s a cure, psychotherapy has proven very effective in helping people to live a much fuller and more meaningful life. A healthy brain equals healthy relationships. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

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.



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