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Kathy Marshack News

Eating Disorders Skyrocket Among Children

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Childhood should be a time of fun, laughter, and a carefree attitude. Sadly, children are being diagnosed with eating disorders and the numbers are skyrocketing. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospitalizations for eating disorders for children under the age of 12 from 1999 and 2006 rose a shocking 119%. Children are worried about being fat. What is causing this to happen to children?

There are many possible factors. It can be linked to personality type. Perfectionism, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive tendencies are commonly linked with eating disorders. The media also plays a role. There is an incredible amount of pressure to look a certain way. Children are in tune with what is going on in the world. They can easily pick up on what the media is putting out there. There is also the idea of food being a reward or a punishment. This can lead to an unhealthy view of foods. (To read about a 9 year old girl's struggle with an eating disorder, read Child Eating Disorders on the Rise on

I encourage all parents to keep an eye on this fast-growing problem. Is your child losing weight? Is their hair thinning? Have they changed what they eat or how much they eat? The warning signs are there, so don't delay if you sense a problem.

Seeking out the help of mental health care professional is recommended if your child has an eating disorder. For more information on how to identify eating disorders, read Understanding Eating Disorders.

How Parents (and Stepparents) Can Help Their Children Adjust to Change

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As a young child, your son or daughter counts on you to help him or her make sense of major changes in his or her life. When marital problems can be resolved only through divorce, or when a child is expected to accept a new family configuration through blending, you must take the time to help him or her understand and adjust.

The guiding principle here is to slow down. You may be lonely, or feel you are ready to start a new relationship, but is your child ready for that? Talk to your child or children about what is happening. Answer their questions. If you notice a peculiar behavior, get

professional help. Research shows that following a divorce, children get less attention from their mothers than before the divorce, but more from their fathers. This change is neither good nor bad, but it is a change that children must adjust to. Help them with it.

One mistake you cannot afford to make is to deprive your child of the other parent. Even if you remarry, even if your ex-spouse is a derelict, children need access to that parent. They will always be attached to their parents in profound and inexplicable ways. No stepparent can take the place of Daddy or Mommy.

Stepparents need to understand this and not get their feelings hurt. As a stepmother or stepfather you can become the child's friend. You can be one of the role models your stepchild may imitate. Your stepchild may even prefer your company to that of her Dad or Mom, but in her heart her first parents come first. After all, it is through her first parents, all those years ago, that she had her first experience with discovering herself. That was a memorable period even if only in terms of feelings. Psychologists call this process bonding, and it is something that cannot be learned later in life.

It is important to honor this bond even if the child seldom has a chance to see the noncustodial parent. Being willing to talk about the absent parent, sharing photographs of happier times, and helping the child to learn the story of his or her earlier life keep the continuity of life going for the child. Your children need to know that they have a whole life that is unique to them, that has helped to shape them, that may be slightly different from yours. And they need to know that all they have been through is helping them to grow stronger and more beautiful each day—even extreme hardship. They are not bad because bad things have happened to them; and you can prove this by being willing to experience life with them.

For more information, visit Blended Families.

Money – Is It Creating a Power Struggle in Your Relationship?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Money is one the top reasons why arguing couples seek psychotherapy. One reason is because money is always on our minds. No matter how much money you have, you always have money problems.

Financial problems are really just the tip of the iceberg for couples, concealing deeper, hidden issues. In spite of the power that money has to entangle our personal relationships, few couples seek out psychotherapy when they have a financial crisis. Instead, couples continue to use money in a power struggle with their loved ones. Money is given, then taken away. Money is used to reward and punish. Money is a promise, a bribe, a threat. Rarely is money given as a gift with no strings attached. Can you see the problem?

If you are to truly free yourself of the money trap, you will need to assess your money beliefs, and be honest about your biases and manipulations with regard to money. You need to acknowledge just how important money is to you. You will need to evaluate your financial values and goals and make sure that they are ethical and compassionate when it comes to your marriage and family.

A therapist is fully equipped to help couples faced with this situation. For more information, visit Marriage Counseling or contact my office to set up an appointment.

How to Help a Troubled Friend

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friendships are a beautiful part of life. Friends fill us with joy, happiness, and companionship. As much as we love our friends, there are times when a friend may be dealing with some serious difficulties such as alcohol abuse, drug addiction, being in an abusive relationship, or financial problems. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your friend struggle, especially if they are in denial or shirk their responsibility.

Friends are often the first to recognize serious problems even before the individual with the problem. This can make for an awkward situation. You love your friend and do not want to see them hurt, but you don't want to add to the hurt.

What should a true friend do? Here are some things to consider if you choose to confront your friend about their problem:

Tactfully and kindly bring up the situation.

Ask questions to draw them out.

Avoid lecturing.

Mention how it makes you feel and why you feel that way.

Keep control over your own emotions.

Reassure them of your love for them. You love them but not what they are doing.

If they deny it, don't take it personal.

Offer to help them. Reassure them of your support and offer practical suggestions. Perhaps have in mind a list of referrals.

Each individual will react differently. You may need to prepare yourself for the fact that your friend may be mad or angry with you. Even though they may respond negatively, remind yourself that you did this out of love and respect for your friend. Usually once the person seeks the help they need, they will then acknowledge you as a true friend.

If you have a friend in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area who is in need of therapy, please have them contact my office for more information.

Couples – Make Time to Really Listen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Listening is at the heart of quality communication. If you learn nothing else about communicating more effectively, at least learn this truth. Without listening skills, you do not have rapport with your partner and you cannot even stay on the same subject.

The next time you are having a discussion with your spouse, instead of planning your next comment, just listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Just understand; do not comment; do not judge. Listening goes a long way toward developing trust between marital partners.

There are three basic steps to being a good listener:

1. You must stay on the subject.
2. You must listen to be sure you are staying on the subject.
3. You must be flexible enough to adapt your behavior if you are not staying on the subject.

Don and Maria (names have been changed) were at an impasse and considering divorce when I first met them. In spite of the great deal they had in common, in spite of the love for each other that they had once felt, in spite of having three beautiful children and a successful business, Don and Maria were incredibly poor communicators when it came to listening to each other. Their lives were so full that they had little time to listen; they seldom made time even to fill each other in on the day's events.

Because they spent so little time together, they rarely communicated about anything. Unfortunately, when conflicts arose, the couple had no mechanism for solving them and retreated to their own separate worlds. The first step in bringing Don and Maria back together was to teach them how to listen and to make time for listening. When they scheduled fifteen minutes each day for uninterrupted listening to each other, they began to rekindle their friendship. Maria learned that Don felt very left out of the family because she handled all of their children's affairs without consulting him. Don learned that Maria felt devalued because he handled all of their financial affairs without consulting her. Furthermore, by just listening, this couple began to recognize that they had more in common than they had realized.

Once Dan and Maria made listening a priority in their lives, the problems began to melt away. So make time to listen. Pull out your calendar and schedule in some one-on-one time to communicate. If you need the assistance of a marriage counselor and live near Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Just a Big Ego or Could It Be Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. The concept of a big ego has been recognized throughout history but it has only recently been defined as a psychological diagnosis – Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Perhaps you think that narcissism is just annoying. However, it is a serious diagnosis. People with this disorder have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Complications of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, when untreated can include: substance and alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, relationship difficulties and problems at school or work.

Narcissists come across as conceited, boastful and pretentious. This impacts everyone around them as they often monopolize conversations, look down on others as inferior and have a misplaced sense of entitlement. They insist on having "the best" of everything and can become easily angry when thwarted. Click here for a list of common symptoms as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. Or take the Narcissistic Personality Quiz at

Can narcissism be confused with strong self-esteem? No. Here’s the difference. Unlike narcissists, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.

More than likely, it is the loved ones of a narcissist that see the need for professional help. If you are in a relationship with someone you suspect is a narcissist, get counseling for yourself immediately. A trained mental health professional can help you navigate this difficult relationship so you don’t sink into a dangerous cycle of codependency.

Should they choose to get help, therapy can greatly assist those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In the short-term psychotherapy would address issues as substance abuse, depression, and relationship issues. In the long-term goal the idea is to gradually reshape their personality so that they can create a healthier self-image and more enjoyable relationships.

If you need a diagnosis or counseling related to narcissism, in yourself or a loved one, contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area to make an appointment.

Having Trouble Making a Business Decision? Hire a Psychologist

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Many business owners are puzzled when their attorney or CPA suggests that they should meet with a psychologist before proceeding with signing a contract, structuring a reorganization or resolving a partnership disagreement. What's a psychologist have to do with business anyway? " I don't need a shrink," they say.

The simple truth is that getting a psychologist involved in a family business makes sense. Why?

1) Half of American businesses are family owned and operated. 2) Many of these businesses are run and staffed by family members who are not necessarily formally trained or educated for their specific job. They work for the business because they are trusted family members dedicated to the success of the family enterprise. 3) Many of these businesses have been around two or three or even four generations, which means that the children are growing up identifying themselves with the family business. What this means for many family firms is that the business is a part of the family and the family is a part of the business.

Recognizing that family businesses are really families with a business identity, a psychologist is able to get beneath the surface of some business problems to identify the emotional snags that are hanging up a business decision. There is nothing more frustrating or expensive than taking weeks and months to develop a new business strategy, only to have it sit there going nowhere because there is a family dispute.

Many family firms want to have open communication. They want to resolve longstanding family/business disputes. They don't like walking on eggshells around certain family members or avoiding sensitive subjects. In spite of good intentions, many of these family firms do not have the skills to address and resolve these problems. They need support and guidance by a psychologist who is trained in resolving problems within a family business system. They need education to learn these skills.

If you have a family business and live in the Vancouver, Washington/Portland, Oregon area, I would be happy to assist you. Contact my office to set up an appointment. For additional information, visit Entrepreneurial Life - Families in Business.

Caring for Alzheimer's Patients

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. The sad truth is that an individual with Alzheimer's will hit a point when they will not be able to function independently. For each person, the situation is different, but the side effects include memory loss, depression, and mood swings.

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's is particularly challenging. This is especially true if you are a loved one. You can expect it to be physically and emotionally draining. As hard as it is to think about yourself, you have to. If you don't, you will be in no position to take care of the person you love. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, get a good night's rest, and make time to be around others. You may not feel that you are up for socializing, but you will need the support. The Alzheimer's Association has a hotline for caregivers. The number is 800-272-3900. Take a look at a previous blog on How To Cope with the Stress of Being a Caregiver.

Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind when caring for the needs of someone with Alzheimer's:

- Encourage stimulation both mentally and socially. This improves cognition.

- Regular exercise. Studies show that resistance training is best for improving cognition, but ultimately just do whatever you can to get them moving!

- Beware of alcohol. Certain medications don't mix well with alcohol. Also, because of memory loss, the individual can easily lose count of how many drinks they have had. Over-drinking is a strong possibility.

The article New Research Offers Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers provides more details regarding the tips I discussed.

Plants – Nature's Stress Relievers

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Here in the Pacific Northwest our summers are beautiful, yet short-lived. Because of our long, wet winters we often don't get to enjoy the beautiful outdoors as much as we would like. Have you ever thought of bringing the outdoors inside? Many don’t realize that indoor plants hold many benefits both physically and emotionally.

Physical Benefits:

  • Prevents colds and allergies
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Better air quality (removes toxins and increases oxygen flow)

Emotional Benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Promotes positive energy
  • Improves concentration

If you are feeling stressed either at home or work, pick up a few plants. They might be just what you need to find some inner calm. If you are dealing with a more severe case of stress and anxiety, visit Managing Stress.

Is There Too Much Stress on Our Children?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's easy to remember all the fun and joyous times we experienced as children. Some of us still long for those carefree days when we had no worries or fears. As perfect as it may have seemed, this memory is not realistic. Children are experiencing high levels of stress. It may look carefree, but inside many children have much on their minds.

School is one of the main concerns for young people. Juggling getting good grades, extracurricular activities, and sports can be a lot of handle. Another concern that tops the list is money. Children are not blind to the fact that there are financial problems in the family. Whatever stress the parent may be feeling, the children will feel it as well.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to children. Each child is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. Some can handle more than others. In order for a child's stress level to be healthy relies much on the parents. Parents must be in tune with how their child is dealing with the challenges in their life. Taking time to talk openly without criticism will allow a child to open up about what they are going through. They must feel that what they share will be respected and safe. I urge all of you parents to stay alert to signs that your child is under stress.

Even if you are the best parent in the world, there are times when you child may need professional help to deal with their stress. This is no slight on you. Being a good parents requires taking the necessary action for the ultimate welfare of your child. Contact a mental health care professional or speak to your family doctor about these issues.

For more information, visit Am I a Good Parent and Managing Stress.

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