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Kathy Marshack News

Could You be “Almost Depressed”?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Everyone experiences some unhappiness or “the blues”, perhaps due to a setback or loss. The painful feelings that accompany these changes are appropriate and necessary and present an opportunity for personal growth. But what if there are persisting low feelings, although you can’t say that you’re really depressed? Is this something to be concerned about? Should you just wait for it to blow over or is there something that should be done to improve the situation today?

I found an article on CNN, “Could You be Almost Depressed?”, to be very informative. It reports that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms. The author, Shelley Carson, described findings from a Harvard Medical School investigation. “People who are almost depressed report lower job satisfaction, lower satisfaction with their marriage and other personal relationships, more anxiety issues, less control over their lives. In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. Even though almost depression does not rise to the level of a diagnosable mental disorder, it is nevertheless associated with a substantial amount of distress and suffering.”

There’s a greater likelihood that people who are suffering these low feelings will fall into major depression if something isn’t done. Major depression is a serious mental health concern that can lead to other problems such as heart disease and even dementia. Persistent low feelings should not be ignored.

What can you do?

Get daily exercise. It improves moods due to the release of endorphins and also releases stress and frustration. Find time daily to exercise even if it is just for a few minutes. Since we are approaching the winter season, click here for some tips on how to exercise during this time of year. Getting outside as much as possible is good for everyone!

Improve your sleep habits. Without adequate sleep, your mind and body suffer and whatever you may be dealing with will only be aggravated. Depression, anxiety and stress have been linked to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you suspect this may be a problem for you, contact your doctor.

Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. A diet low in sugar and fat and high in protein, fruit, and vegetables is recommended. Better physical health contributes to improved mental health.

Identify faulty thinking. Emotional distress distorts our thinking and decision making skills. But we can combat these bad effects by retraining how we think.

Stay connected. Although you may feel like isolating yourself, it’s important to reach out to your network of positive friends and family so they can support you.

Talk to a mental health professional. You don’t have to have clinical depression to benefit from therapy. A therapist can help you identify underlying issues and come up with a plan to improve.

If you need help don’t hold back from getting it! You can speak to your doctor for a referral or if you live in the Portland Metro area you can schedule an appointment to see me.

You can read more on my website – Overcoming Depression.

The Key to Making Mistakes Work for You

Thursday, September 19, 2013

make mistakes work for youYou ate too much junk food while watching TV last night. You were late picking your daughter up from gymnastics. You hit the delete button when you meant to save the document you’ve just spent hours on… Everybody makes mistakes every day of their lives. Some can turn out well; others turn out badly. The important thing is how you handle them when they happen.

What makes it difficult is that we live in a society that is not tolerant of mistakes. It criticizes and punishes mistakes. There’s a constant pressure to do more and be better. As a consequence, it may become very difficult to accept the mistakes made by self or others. Mistakes often cause a person to become ashamed, defensive or angry. When a person’s view of mistakes become distorted, it can lead to social phobias, fearing you won’t be liked by others or striving to be perfect, which is an impossible and exhausting endeavor.

Rather than focusing on all the ways you failed in a situation, think about all the things you did right. For example, perhaps you lost your temper with your partner and said things you wish you hadn’t BUT then you cooled down and apologized and began a conversation that resulted in each of you understanding the other better. For every one mistake you make that really bothers you, list at least two things that you do right in the circumstances.

This exercise will remind you that you are not defined by your mistakes. It will boost your confidence to meet your mistakes head on, do what you can to fix them, or accept them and learn to laugh at yourself. See if it doesn’t give you a more positive frame of mind the next time you make a mistake.

If you find yourself worrying too much over what other people think of you, and fear of humiliation in front of others causes you to avoid situations where you are the center of attention, think seriously about consulting with a trained mental health professional so you can get realistic feedback about yourself. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about it on my website – Overcoming Social Phobia.

Can Any Good Come from Suffering?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

morpho butterflyWe try to shield the ones we love from all struggle and suffering. Parents especially do this for their children, trying to make their lives easier than their own. But can this become a misplaced sentiment? Is it an attempt to make ourselves feel better rather than doing something that actually helps the situation? Haven’t we all heard about the parent that shields a child from the consequences of their actions until the child becomes hardened in a self-centered way of living?

Take the story of a butterfly as an example. A little boy collects a chrysalis and puts it in a jar so he can watch it hatch. As it goes from the stage of pupa to butterfly, it emerges from it chrysalis and crawls up the twig. But because the jar is too small it unsuccessfully tries to pump the fluid from its body into the wings. It just can’t do it. It doesn’t have enough room to expand its wings. They harden in their shriveled state and this butterfly will never fly.

Throughout history and across different cultures, people have long struggled and coped with immense suffering in different ways. The New York Times has a story, The Value of Suffering, that is truly thought provoking. It points out the obvious – that we all suffer – but the important point is how we choose to react to it.

Parroting platitudes like “look at the bright side" or “time heals all wounds” does little more than irritate. We can, however, take bad situations and expand or grow by looking for ways to help others, and in the process help ourselves. Never should we keep our views so small that we are afraid to say a word of comfort, give hope and extend an act of kindness. Looking for the positive in the situation, in other people and in ourselves will keep us from spiraling into bitterness and anger.

When you’re confronted with a person who is suffering from clinical depression, it requires special consideration and treatment. It would be insensitive to say, “Get over it. Buck up.” However you don't want to be an enabler to their depression as they sink deeper and deeper. Encourage the depressed individual to seek help with a mental health professional. Or if you’re living with a depressed individual and don’t know how to cope and you live nearby, contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington office and make an appointment soon. There is help available for you and your loved one.

Read more about this on my website – Overcoming Depression.

A Hard Truth about Asperger Relationships - Empathy is not the same as Caring

Friday, August 30, 2013

unlock the empathy you needHarper Lee wrote a wonderful line for Atticus Finch in the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird. He told his daughter, "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." That’s a great definition for empathy.

This may be “a simple trick” for some, but it’s not for those with Asperger’s Syndrome. Empathy is usually lacking in a relationship with an Aspie. This lack can cause deep emotional pain to the neurotypical (NT) partner, because empathy is very important for feeling connected and loved.

A troublesome dilemma for many NT partners is the realization that empathy is not the same as caring. Your Aspie may care about you and love you. But if they have Zero Degrees of empathy (as described by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen) it just doesn't feel like love or caring. And that can leave you bereft . . .or depressed.

Just imagine this ironic story showing how an Aspie can care about someone, yet not have empathy. Imagine the wife is deeply depressed one day, so she wraps herself in a blanket, and huddles in the recliner to nap away the day. Her Aspie husband noticed this and asked if she’s Okay. When she says that she’s not doing well, he offers to get her a Pepto Bismol. He cares so he tries to help, but it’s way off the mark of what she really needs.

So, what is a NT partner supposed to do? You understand intellectually that your ASD partner cares, yet is incapable of extending empathy to you. Do you really have to give up your need for empathy, for the kind of connection that means so much? How do you continue to appreciate that they do care, even when you’re not getting what you need? If you’d like to find a group of people who understand what you’re going through and who can support you online, check out Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

For those of you who are in a relationship with a person with Asperger’s and live near Portland, Oregon, you can connect with others who can empathize, by joining us for our next Meetup locally. Come prepared to share your stories of empathy v. caring. Let's find ways to cope with this dilemma. It’s on Saturday, September 21, 2013. Click here for more information.

Identify Faulty Thinking and Relieve Your Emotional Pain

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

 replace faulty thinking with constructive thinkingEmotional pain is very real. In one study, people who were given Tylenol (acetaminophen) before recalling a painful rejection reported less emotional pain than people who were given a placebo.

Emotional distress distorts our thinking and decision making skills. But we can combat these bad effects by retraining how we think. If you can define faulty, irrational thinking and change it into more constructive thinking, you’re entire well-being will improve.

Let’s examine some faulty thinking and determine a better way of thinking:

1. “I should toughen up and dismiss my emotional distress.”

Constructive thinking
– A person experiences distress because something is not right, so it’s important to think about the situation in a constructive way and understand what happened in order to avoid future problems as well as identify how you can move past this experience.

Faulty thinking – Replaying the same thoughts and memories without gaining any new insights only creates a deeper hurt and can become a set pattern of thinking that is hard to dispel. It also releases stress hormones into your body thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.

2. “I failed, so I give up.”

Constructive thinking
– Consider what you could have done differently, perhaps getting more facts before you act or planning and preparing what you want to do and say ahead of time. Then try again using what you’ve just learned until you get it right.

Faulty thinking – Feeding your sense of helplessness by not owning up to your part, attributing it to bad luck or blaming someone else.

3. “I feel guilty so I must keep making amends.”

Constructive thinking
– Guilt alerts you that you’ve harmed someone so you can set things straight with that person. Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they’ve felt before you apologize, then your making amends will touch a responsive cord and you’ll receive their forgiveness.

Faulty thinking – An unfeeling apology or excessively apologizing are two extremes to be avoided, because these damage your relationship and hinder your enjoyment of life.

4. “Telling myself that I’m lovable doesn’t work for me.”

Constructive thinking
– Recognize and reinforce the qualities that you do have, e.g. “I’m a caring, loyal, hard-working person.”

Faulty thinking – If you don’t believe you’re lovable, you won’t be able to talk yourself into feeling it. So the positive affirmation, “I’m lovable” will only make you feel worse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is powerful as it helps to retrain the way you think. If you’d like to make an appointment, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

If You Want to Be Happy Take a Risk

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

happy woman enjoying lifeWhat makes you happy? If you were to list 25 things that make you happy, what would they be? How many of your listed items would be things that make you uncomfortable? Normally, we tend to avoid what feels risky, preferring to stay in our comfort zones. Yet, that may not be the best way to stay happy. Here’s why…

In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers listed our Rights as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? The word pursuing involves obtaining something that you don’t have yet. We can pursue happiness by doing the things we know we like. But there is more to it than that. A recent article in Psychology Today, “What Happy People Do Differently”, makes this statement, “One of life's sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable, and occasionally bad.”

Does that surprise you that doing what is risky and uncomfortable contributes to our happiness? We all need to experience new things, overcome new challenges that take us outside of our comfort zones to grow emotionally and spiritually. We need to fuel our curiosity.

The article also lists the following four other unique habits that happy people have:

  • They have a balanced view of details, not taking things too personally or striving for perfection.
  • They celebrate others’ successes and build relationships with others who do the same.
  • They have psychological flexibility – they accept negative emotions as a signal that they need to examine and possibly change the situation they’re in.
  • They balance pleasure and purpose – they enjoy life but stay on track with long-range goals.

Happiness isn’t about always being on an emotional high. It comes when you combine it with “occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, psychological flexibility, autonomy, mastery and belonging.” Rather than chasing happiness, perhaps the founding fathers should have said “and the pursuit of a life well-lived.”

Are there anxieties or chronic depression that prevent you from fully enjoying life and your relationships? Life is too precious to miss out on, so maybe it’s time to consult with a therapist who will work with you as you discover the best ways to keep your anxieties or depression under control. Are you near Portland Oregon or Vancouver, Washington? Contact my office to set up an appointment.

Learn how you can help yourself by checking out the tips on my website – Depression and Stress.

Keys to Problem Solving Effectively

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do you know someone who handles problems with ease? You might be attracted to their confident yet carefree attitude when it comes to conquering daily challenges. For some, this type of attitude and ability to problem solve comes naturally. For others, it can be a real struggle. If it doesn't come naturally, don't be discouraged. You can learn how to adjust and problem solve when challenges come your way. It's starts with your attitude. Once your attitude has been adjusted, then you can attack the problem.

Keys to Problem Solving:

Adjusting Your Attitude

1. Separate the negative feeling from the positive thoughts. Clearing your mind from negative thinking with give you a clean slate.

2. View the problem as an opportunity for growth.

3. Take responsibility and don't blame others. You can only control yourself.

4. Develop a strong desire to solve the problem.

Attacking the Problem

1. Identify the root cause of the problem.

2. Think, strategize, then act on the resolution.

Problem solving is a vital process to learn and implement. You may need assistance from a mental health care professional who can guide you through the steps specific to your needs. Contact my office for an appointment.

For more information, visit Personal Growth.

Asperger Relationships: Coping with Unremitting Grief

Monday, June 10, 2013

When you love someone with Asperger Syndrome, you may hit a point where you grieve. You may be grieving over the relationship or for the loss of a dream. The problem with this grief is it may not be going away. When you continue to live with your Asperger partner, your keep triggering the loss. You feel it over and over again.

But what is going on when years later you are still so depressed, forlorn, and fatigued over the loss of your dream? I have heard some define this as "Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder". I believe the symptoms are very similar to depression, but of a grief that never goes away or unremitting grief.

On June 15, 2013, Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD will be meeting in Portland, Oregon to discuss the topic, "Unremitting Grief." Sharing stories and giving input from only those who have walked in these shoes can help to bind up the broken hearts of others. Come and join us and share what you know about "unremitting grief." This will be the last Meetup until September and it will not be one to miss. Click on the link for membership details.

Download a free sample chapter of Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge.

Talk Therapy Heals Your Brain

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Did you know that talk therapy has a biological impact on your brain? Talk therapy affects the brain. During talk therapy, an individual learns news ways to think which forms new connections in the brain. Developing new patterns of thinking, new behaviors, and resolving unconscious behaviors are just a few of the benefits of talk therapy.

While medication may be necessary, talk therapy can at times be a solo treatment or combined with meds. Sometimes individuals want a "quick fix" and want to only take medication and avoid seeking out therapy. However, the benefit to taking the time for therapy is that you will learn skills that can help you for the rest of your life. Opening up takes time, but the results are worth it. Healing your brain is a gift worth fighting for. (To read more about talk therapy, read the article - Invitation to a Dialogue - Benefits of Talk Therapy)

As a psychologist, I offer a variety of Psychotherapy Options including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT address the way people think. The techniques are designed to change faulty irrationally thinking into more constructive, solution-oriented thinking. Often people are stuck because they have an irrational belief from childhood that keeps them from living the way they wished they could. CBT is usually considered short-term therapy, perhaps 8-10 one-hour sessions. Click here to learn more about CBT.

What Our Words are Really Saying

Monday, May 27, 2013

Words are powerful. They can hurt and they can heal. The words we use can give us a peek into who we really are. Words should be chosen carefully.

Recent studies have shown that the words we use as a society have drastically changed in the last 50 years. Individualistic words such as "self," "unique," and "I come first" are more common than communal words such as "share," "community," and "united." Other common words trends include a decline in moral terms, expressions of gratitude and humility, as well as compassion. (To learn about these specific studies, read the article - What Our Words Tell Us at

The theme is that the society is becoming more and more focused on self or self absorbed and more depressed. You might want to think about the words you choose and how they paint a portrait of who you really are. If you would like to become less focused on yourself and more aware of your relationship to others, speak to a mental health care professional. You may be in a negative mode that could be affecting the quality of your life and your relationship with others. Contact my office to set up an appointment.

Recommended Blogs:
Working Within Your Strengths - Practice Giving
Reasons Why You Should Cultivate a Grateful Attitude

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