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Kathy Marshack News

The Upside to the Novelty-Seeking Personality Trait "Neophilia"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Are you always moving on to the next best thing? The personality trait, neophilia, is defined as liking anything new or being a novelty-seeker. For a long time, this trait came with a negative connotation. It was linked with ADD, addictions to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, and criminal actions. Now researchers are saying that neophilia combined with certain other personality traits could contribute to a sense of well-being and overall happiness.

C. Robert Cloninger, the psychiatrist who developed personality tests for measuring this trait stated, "Novelty-seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age. It can lead to antisocial behavior, but if you combine this adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the kind of creativity that benefits society as a whole.”

Dr. Cloninger says that the secret lies in a "trio of personality traits". That trio is novelty-seeking, persistence, and self-transcendence. Persistence gives you the motivation to keep trying even if you don't get what you want immediately. If you’re persistent, you look for new and better ways to achieve. Self-transcendence refers to getting lost in your thoughts or in moments and allowing amazing connections to form.

For more on this fascinating look at neophilia, read the NY Times article - Novelty-Seeking (Neophilia) Can Be a Predictor of Well-Being. If you are a neophiliac and want to get the most out of this personality trait, seeking therapy can be highly beneficial. If you do not seek to use this trait in a positive or effective manner, it could lead to extreme frustration and disappointment. Contact my office to set up an appointment if you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area.

Childhood Obesity Linked to Being Left Out

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Maybe you have reasoned in the past that being left out is part of childhood. Just grin and bear it and all will be fine. Sadly, being left out or ostracized – even for a short period of time – can carry along some very negative side effects on children.

According to researchers at Kent State University and colleagues at Pediatrics, children who feel left out may often make a choice to be less physically active. A staggering 41% of children in a recent study chose an inactive activity instead of a physically active one after being left out of an online computer game. Researchers are now linking obesity, an increase in eating, and other health problems to ostracism. This type of child will most likely spend more time alone and sedentary.

As a parent, it would be difficult to see your child enduring this hardship and the side effects that come along with it. When you become alert to the fact that this is in fact happening to your child, your reaction and response to the situation will greatly affect how the child will act and feel. The first thing to do is not to overreact, rather be a good listener. Let your child express how they feel without being judged especially because they probably feel judged by everyone else. Empathize with them and reassure them of your love for them and the good qualities that they have. Also reassure them that many kids have dealt with this same problem. Work with your child help them develop the power of perception, social skills, and how to set small goals to make friends.

If you are not able to reach your child and you feel that their situation is worsening, don't be ashamed to ask for help from a counselor or family therapist. With the assistance of a therapist, you can work together for the benefit of your child. Being a good parent means doing whatever you have to do for your child and that sometimes means getting a professional involved.

For more information, read Am I a Good Parent or contact my office to set up an appointment.

Domestic Violence Is More Common Than You Realize – Get Help Now!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


According to a 1997 Gallup Poll report, child abuse is ten times worse than government reports indicate. Furthermore, 70 to 80 percent of child abuse is related to alcohol abuse.

Spouse abuse and child abuse indicate an obvious breakdown in the multiple developing progressions of an individual's life, and are evidence of serious mental and spiritual problems. Chronic problems that have persisted for years are responsible for this total disregard of human values and dignity.

Ray phoned me because he was looking for a psychologist for his wife, Connie. He felt that she was extremely depressed, even suicidal. She would not seek help for herself but agreed to see me if Ray made the appointment. Over the next few weeks, Ray and Connie shared with me a most unique story of two lives nearly destroyed by child abuse, alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and sexual abuse.
Ray's childhood home life was filled with alcoholism and child abuse, but his parents never divorced. Connie never knew her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father remarried several times, and each time Connie and her sister acquired new stepsiblings. During one of these marriages, Connie and her sister were repeatedly sexually assaulted by older stepbrothers.

Ray and Connie wanted to be the Romeo and Juliet who got away. Ray and Connie had discovered a business that they thought could make them rich. The couple felt they were on top of the world. They made very good money.

But then Connie started to demonstrate serious emotional problems. She was irritable and depressed. She stopped caring about her appearance and left the children unwashed and unkempt. And she rarely left the house, which was never clean. It was at this point that Ray brought his wife to see me. Just twenty-nine, Connie was underweight and haggard-looking when she revealed to me what she had been living with. Ray was a cocaine addict, spending about $1,000 a week on his drug. In order to keep from being beaten by him, Connie agreed to use cocaine too. With increased cocaine use, the couple crossed other moral boundaries.

Connie shared these horrors as if in a daze. She was deeply depressed, but also not really aware of how extreme things had become in her life. Coming from a childhood of abuse, her boundaries were diffuse. Physical abuse and sexual abuse had always been the norm in her life. Even as an adult, she did not know how to protect herself.

Ray, too, was a victim. With no guidance from his parents, he had grown up to be a young man with no values, no ethics. He was ignorant of the devastating effects of drug abuse on the mind, body, and spirit. He was afraid, however. He was afraid of losing his wife, and he was afraid of going to prison. It took a lot of courage to seek my help, considering the potential threat to Ray's freedom.

This sad story reveals that stress, ignorance, and drugs definitely do not mix. Ongoing, untreated stress can create health problems, marital problems, drug abuse problems, and ethical problems. As a result of these problems, in combination with the weaknesses of character that evolved years earlier from neglectful and abusive upbringings, the crossing of boundaries into domestic violence is more common than you might think.

If you recognize yourself or your partner taking even a small step in this direction, you should seek the help of a psychotherapist immediately. Ask your doctor for a referral or look for a therapist who specializes in domestic violence. Contact my office if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

The Best Treatment Available for Borderline Personality Disorder

Friday, January 27, 2012


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) will impact how you feel about yourself, how you relate to others and how you behave. When you have borderline personality disorder, you often have an unstable self-image which in turn leads to instability in your life with frequent changes in jobs, relationships and even values.

People with borderline personality disorder often feel misunderstood and alone. You may be aware that your behavior is destructive, but feel powerless to change it. For people with BPD relationships are tough and often characterized as love-hate relationships. You may idealize someone one moment and then shift to hate over perceived slights or misunderstandings. It’s hard for you to accept the so called gray areas in life — for you things seem to be either black or white.

Borderline personality disorder symptoms may include:

· Impulsive and risky behavior, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, gambling or recreational drug use

· Intense episodes of anxiety or depression

· Inappropriate anger

· Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses

· Suicidal behavior or self-injury

· Fear of being alone

Borderline personality disorder should be diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for borderline personality disorder. The most effective psychotherapeutic approach to date is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), designed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. to specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT uses a skills-based approach to teach clients how to take control of their lives, their emotions, and themselves through self-knowledge, emotion regulation, and cognitive restructuring.

If you notice symptoms discussed in this article about yourself talk to a mental health provider. The right treatment really can help you live a more stable, enjoyable and rewarding life. If you notice these things in a family member or friend, talk to them about getting help. But remember you can't force them to seek treatment. If the relationship with this person is causing you stress, to avoid the trap of codependency you would most likely benefit from therapy or a support group yourself. Look for a therapist who specializes in DBT or contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

How to Cope with the Stress of Being a Caregiver

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Have you heard the term “sandwich generation”? This is the group of people struggling to meet the needs of both growing children and aging parents, often alone and working full-time. Many of these caregivers may be setting themselves up for an unhealthy future due to a combination of high stress and poor health behaviors.

A recent UCLA study found that caregivers for the aging or disabled are subjected to considerable financial and emotional strain. Most caregivers didn’t need scientific research to support their everyday reality. Unfortunately the research also uncovered higher levels of serious psychological distress compared with the general population.

So what should a caregiver do to combat chronic stress which can lead to anxiety and depression? Here are some recommendations that will help you cope with the extra strain of being a caregiver:

  • Recreate. Consider relief options such as taking long weekends or vacations. You deserve some time off and can come back refreshed to care for your love one.
  • Express your feelings. Feelings of anger or frustration when they not expressed leads to more stress. You may not be able to express this to the person you’re caring for but by writing in a journal, writing a poem, or composing a letter that is never mailed may accomplish your purpose.
  • Keep perspective and look for the positive. Reversing negative ideas and learning to focus on positive outcomes sounds simple but it helps reduce tension.
  • Have a sense of humor. Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a must. Laughing releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps you keep perspective.
  • Exercise. Exercise is an effective distraction from stressful events and keeps your body and immune system stronger.
  • Strengthen or establish a support network. Studies of people who remain happy and healthy despite many life stresses show that most have very good networks of social support. Consider joining a support group for caregivers.
  • Professional help. A mental health professional should be consulted for unmanageable acute stress or for severe anxiety or depression. Often short-term therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can resolve stress-related emotional problems.
  • Relaxation techniques. Learn methods for invoking the relaxation response such as deep breathing, meditation or massage.

Above all don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself! If you need help find a therapist who can help get you back on track or contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

Could My Teenager be Bipolar?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


More than 10 million people in the US have bipolar disorder. It is equally common in men and women and the onset of the condition typically occurs in the early 20s. However, the first symptoms can also appear in early childhood or during the teen years.

An early diagnosis is critical because children with this disorder are more likely to have other problems including alcohol and drug abuse, trouble in school, running away from home, fighting, and even suicide. Treating the disorder as early as possible can help your child cope with their symptoms and avoid these problems.

During a time of mania, teenagers may throw violent temper tantrums, seem extremely happy, not sleep much and talk very fast. During a time of depression, teens may say they feel empty, sad, bored, complain of headaches or stomachaches, spend time alone and feel easily rejected. If you or your spouse has bipolar disorder you should especially be aware of symptoms in your children. Studies at Stanford University studied the genetic connection of bipolar disorder and found that children with one biological parent with bipolar disorder have an increased likelihood of getting bipolar disorder.

The trouble is bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose in children and teens. The symptoms can look a lot like the symptoms of other problems like ADHD, substance abuse and even the highs and lows characteristic of adolescence. Which is why if you suspect your child or teen may have bipolar disorder, you should speak with your doctor right away about getting an accurate diagnosis.

If your child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder in addition to medication, you should find a trained therapist who works with children and can help your child accept the diagnosis, get educated about bipolar moods, identify warning signs, and learn strategies to manage stress. And since bipolar disorder extends beyond the patient and affects the entire family, families can definitely benefit from working with a therapist to learn how to recognize an impending manic or depressive episode and how to best manage them.

If you would like help in receiving an accurate diagnosis and/or treatment for your bipolar teenager and live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington contact my office for an appointment.

How Prayer, Knitting and Jogging Impact Your Mind-Body Connection

Friday, January 13, 2012


There is an inseparable connection between the mind and the body. There are complicated interactions that take place between the mind, body, and the outside world. Studies have shown that between 60% and 90% of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. The mind/body approach to health has helped millions of men and women reduce the stress that can cause or exacerbate conditions such as: chronic pain, headaches, and hypertension.

Exactly how personal beliefs, psychological and social factors, and stress affect the health of your body is not fully understood. It is known, however, that the mind and body are in a state of constant communication. What the mind thinks, perceives, and experiences is sent from the brain to the rest of the body. And vice versa: our bodies are sending messages to the brain.

I’ve followed the research of Dr. Herbert Benson with interest for years. He’s a cardiologist who has worked in establishing the mind/body connection. His research has uncovered what is called the relaxation response which can be elicited by a variety of meditative techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, repetitive prayer, tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, jogging, and even knitting. You can learn more about eliciting the relaxation response at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine’s website.

I urge you to learn how to use your own healing power to maintain or regain health and reduce stress and other negative behaviors and thoughts. If you need help in developing a healthier connection between mind and body find a therapist who works in this area or contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

Parents - Protect Your Child's Brain

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Sports are a fun way to get exercise, play with friends, or just let off some steam. Many parents encourage their children to participate in competitive sports such as soccer or football. While you may feel that these sports are purely fun and beneficial for the kids, I would like to extend a word of caution.

The New York Times wrote an article entitled "N.F.L. Faces Retired Players in a High Stakes Legal Battle" that discusses the legal suits filed against the NFL. Over a dozen suits were filed by retired football players and the wives. About 120 players are claiming that the NFL knew the neurological effects that repeated blows to the head can cause and held back that information from the players or they claim if the NFL didn't know, they should have looked into it. Memory loss, dementia, disorientation, anger problems, and depression are all medical conditions that can be related to multiple concussions.

This blog is not to tell parents that their children should not play sports, but it is a word of caution to protect their brain – a valuable organ! Whether your child plays competitive sports or plays just for fun, be alert to the dangers that concussions can cause. Taking this lightly can have serious, lifelong consequences. If you or someone you love is experiencing mental side effects after a concussion, speak to your doctor immediately.

Use Music to Ease Anxiety

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Anxiety disorders are often accompanied with physical symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, tension, and fatigue. The pain that experienced is very real and can feel overwhelming. A study performed at the University of Utah Pain Research Center noticed that listening to music can have a positive effect on the pain associated with anxiety.

About 143 participants were evaluated and told to listen to the music and look for deviant tones and melodies. While listening, participants received safe, fingertip electrode shocks. The researchers found that while listening, pain stimuli decreased. The focus shifted from feeling the pain to listening and being stimulated by the music. What a simple yet effective way to help the pain! For more information on this study, I recommend reading - Music Soothes Anxiety, Reduces Pain.

While music can play a powerful role in aiding someone with anxiety disorders, psychotherapy is still vital. Speaking to your doctor about the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, WA contact my office for more information.

For more information, read Coping with Anxiety Disorders.

Feeling Blue During the Holiday Season? Don't Give Up When Fighting Depression

Friday, December 23, 2011


This time of year can be a happy time for most, but for those with depression, it can be difficult. Loss of a loved one, financial struggles, divorce, or a job loss are all possible situations that could cause someone to feel down while the rest are joyful. If you feel this way, you are not alone in this battle. Many are fighting the same fight to overcome depression and sorrow.

If you are feeling depressed, take time to rest. That could include sleeping, deep breathing, or other relaxation methodology. Dealing with depression is exhausting, so you need time to recharge your mind and your body. This will help to give you strength to keep fighting.

It is easy to isolate yourself when you are depressed, but being around those who you love will remind you that there is more to life. Their support is what you need to not feel alone in your struggle. It can also distract you from only thinking about yourself. Sometimes what happens is that you didn't realize that the people around you are also going through difficulties. Recognizing that can give some necessary perspective.

Self-worth is usually lost when depression strikes. It is important to believe in yourself. You are only human. When you are feeling quite down, find something that will make you feel good about yourself and do it. You will find that your self-worth will rise. I recently wrote about cultivating a grateful attitude. What are you grateful about you? Think about that. Loving yourself is an important step to overcoming depression.

If your depression does not improve, speak to your doctor or a therapist. They will be able to provide you with the right tools to get you back on your feet. For more information, visit Overcoming Depression.


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