Migraines Increase Depression Risk

Migraine headache painting © by jelene


Article first published as Migraines Increase Depression Risk on Technorati.

Migraines increase depression risk according to new research conducted at the University of Calgary in Canada according to a report on November 26 in Medical News Today.

The number of people suffering from migraines and depression is substantial. The National Institutes of Health in their Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009 estimate that there are 36 million migraine sufferers in the United States, one-third of whom are male and two-thirds of whom are female. The Center for Disease Control 2008 health survey estimates that 9% or 27 million people suffer from depression.

According to the Canadian study, the two conditions seem to feed each other. The study’s Lead author, Geeta Modgill, MsC believes that individuals suffering from either migraine or major depressive episodes (MDE’s) need to become aware of the symptoms of the other disease.

The researchers gathered data about 15,254 persons who participated in the Canadian National Population Health Survey. The study process included 6 follow-ups: one every two years from 1994 for 12 years. They found that 15% of of the study participants had MDEs and 12% had bouts of migraine during the 12-year study period. The research and follow-up showed that migraineurs are 60% greater chance of having a major depressive episode and those who had the major depressive episode had a 40% chance of having a migraine headache.

The researchers’ stated goal was to determine whether or not there was a link between the two disorders, since prior longitudinal studies had indicated some type of relationship.  The study does in fact support the perception of a link but does not arrive at any conclusions about causes.

The November 15 study abstract in the journal  Headache states  “The current study provides substantial evidence that migraine is associated with the later development of MDEs, but does not provide strong causal evidence of an association in the other direction. Environmental factors such as childhood trauma and stress may shape the expression of this bidirectional relationship; however, the precise underlying mechanisms are not yet known.”

Studies are being conducted to learn more about the relationship between childhood trauma and these two conditions.  In the meantime, knowing that migraine headaches and major depressive episodes are related can help individuals take preventative measure for their health.

HSP Stress Relief offers additional information about migraines and highly sensitive people.



How To Enjoy The Holidays

 I was asked this week about how to enjoy the holidays to minimize overstimulation and exhaustion. These are my suggestions for HSP’s.

Highly sensitive people are easily overwhelmed by the frenzy of the holiday season. The spirit of the season and their own generous spirits can easily result in HSP’s becoming overcommitted and overworked.  Here are ways to make the holiday season more pleasurable without making your own life miserable.:

  1. the first step to an enjoyable holiday season is to take stock of your health needs. It is extremely important to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating healthy organic food, getting some exercise and making sure you take medications and supplements so that the demands of the season can be taken in stride.
  2. take stock of your family, work and other group commitments to set some priorities in gift giving and social engagements.
  3. take care of shopping early.  The internet is a blessing for highly sensitive people. Shopping information on products has evolved to the point where decisions are easily researched and purchases are secure.
  4. take time for yourself.  If you expect a lot of demands for the holidays, it would be helpful to take a time out to recharge every day and every week.  Some options that can help you to recharge are : meditation once or twice a day, a day or evening off for curling up with a book, a spa night with a good soak in the tub and a weekly massage or reiki treatment.
  5. if you have a lot of tension in your life from family and/or work, it can help to start and end each day with some journaling.  Journaling lets you release frustrations in a healthy and safe way.  It hands your frustrations over to the universe, freeing your energy for other activities.  It can be thought of as a form of delegating.
  6. make time for joy.  Take time to enjoy the visual delights and other pleasures of the holiday season.  They are an expression of goodwill that you deserve to enjoy as much as anyone else.
  7. giving to some favorite charities can lift your spirits.  There are wonderful charities that help children and others in need that would love your support.  You can even give in someone else’s name, which is a wonderful gift to give someone else.
The holidays can be a wonderful time.  It is the time of year when we are most generous with one another.  With a little planning, smart limit setting and good health habits, you can be free to fully enjoy the season.


Why Kindness Is Winning

Love © by Noël Zia Lee

Kindness is winning!

Steven Pinker, the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, wrote an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Violence Vanquished, about the decline of violent conflict in the world, and how we have evolved to become more peaceful.  The article was adapted from his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, published by Viking.

Mr. Pinker describes how over time we have passed through several stages of development, each of them reducing violence in the world:

  1. The first transition was from the early hunter/gather societies where people killed for food to agricultural societies where institutions started to be formed. Agriculture required the ability to store and protect food supplies which increased investment in a social structure and reduced crime.
  2. The second decline of violence occurred in Europe at the end of the feudal period. Apparently killings declined 10-50 fold as nation states emerged, consolidating large territories and increasing the span of control of government institutions over greater areas of land.  This evolution had the additional effect of creating some standardization of practices which enabled commerce to flourish.
  3. The third transition which Mr. Pinker calls the Humanitarian Revolution, began with the Enlightenment and the effort to make human life more sustainable by harnessing nature to serve our largely unmet needs. The Enlightenment also ushered in democracy and even greater investment in social institutions.
  4. The fourth major transition is the the one we are in with no world wars since the end of World War II called the Long Peace.

Over time we have a pattern of developing societies, institutions and economies to ensure our survival on the planet that also makes human life more sustainable. As we have increased the sharing of power and responsibility, we have also reduced violence since people will not support a social structure that harms them.

Mr. Pinker points to the increase in humanitarian organizations and efforts that have exploded over the past century. Today the internet now makes humanitarian outreach a daily practice rather than something we do in our spare time.

Over time human rights has gradually triumphed over state rights which has been an important developmental shift in many human societies.  You could call it a rebalancing between the individual and the group.

The humanitarian evolution of our species has progressed to the point that empathy is becoming an important human value.  We now consider empathy to be the basis for a new kind of person, the highly sensitive person.

Mr. Pinker’s article is good news for HSP’s. For a long time, sensitives had to hide their nature.  Now we are starting to be accepted.  As human creativity is evolving with our humanity, we may finally make a world which is good for all people, including highly sensitive people.

How Superfoods Can Help HSP’s

Pesto and Sundried Tomato Rice Balls, Tofu Salad, Cracked Wheat Salad, Pumpkin Pasta Bake - Friends of the Earth, Fitzroy AUD6 small plate © by avlxyz

Superfoods are a type of food that has a lot of promise for highly sensitive people. HSP stress problems can cause a depletion in the nutritions stores of the body. Superfoods can restore the body and help minimize the consequences of chronic stress.

What are superfoods?  There is some dispute about what they are and what they do. What is not in dispute is that superfoods are healthy. So what are they?

When people use the term superfood they are generally mean one of two different types of foods:

  • the condensed nutient dense powders and pills that pack a lot of green and other nutrients into an easily accessible form.  When you read the labels, your head may swim at the list of ingredients. These supplements often try to provide complete nutrition that can be taken as a pill or as a shake with water or milk.
  • a group of whole foods that are considered to offer superior nutritive value. Superfoods are an attempt to counteract the low nutritional value of processed foods and to help sustain the body which is being overloaded with toxins from pesticides and other chemicals.

Superfoods are a recognition of the nutritional value in the plants and other foods enjoyed by our ancestors, and the cost to our health of modern foods high in calories, fat, sugar and other chemicals.

Superfoods are nutrient dense. Nutrient density refers to the ratio of trace nutrients to macro-nutrients. Macro nutrients are the protein, carbohydrates and fats in foods. Trace nutrients are vitamins, minerals and other compounds often in plant based foods that are necessary for us to be healthy.

Modern food is difficult to digest, clogging to our bodies, increases free radicals and makes us fat, sluggish and unhappy.  When we eat nutrient weak foods, our bodies recognize the poor nutrition, which will not feel satisfying.   The unsatified  desire for healthy food can then lead to cravings which can keep us in a pattern of eating poorly particularly if we are under stress.

Highly sensitive people can help themselves by adding superfoods to their diets and if adding a green superfood drink for additional nutrition to make sure the body has the resources to handle HSP stress.

Here are some whole food superfoods:

  • broccoli
  • beans
  • salmon
  • blueberries
  • apples
  • nuts
  • oats
  • spinach

For additional information about concentrated forms of superfoods here are some links to investigate:


There are many excellent powdered superfood products:

Green Vibrance – Vibrant Health

Natural Health: The Best Tasting Green Superfood Powder Products

New Study Results In Successful Treatment Of Major Depression

68/365: Bad Mommy Morning © by Amy Wilbanks Photography *prev. SymaSees*

A new technique healing major depression is succeeding in improving symptoms in individuals with Major Depressive Disorder. Medical News Today  reported on October 20, 2011, the new approach which is based on brain studies conducted at Cedars-Sinai Hospital and published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.

“Recent imaging studies show that depressed patients have reduced functioning in the regions of the brain responsible for optimism,” said Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, study author and clinical director of Adult Outpatient Programs for the Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. “Also, people with depression tend to have fewer skills to help them develop a better future. They have less ability to set goals, problem solve or plan for future events.”

Generally therapy treatment for depressed patients is cognitive therapy where the negative thoughts of the patient are challenged and the patient is expected to reconsider their negative thoughts. However, the study demonstrates that the negative thoughts are not simply a bad mental choice.  The depressed patients do not have access to the mental support for a more optimistic way of thinking.

Cedars-Sinai has developed a different form of therapy called Future Directed Therapy (TM), which helps the patients to shift their attention from the negative thoughts to what they do want and supports them in obtaining the skills necessary to reach their goals.

The study was conducted with 33 patients, 16 in the Future Directed Therapy (TM) program and 17 in regular therapy. The Future Directed group met twice a week for 10 weeks.  At the end of the process they were evaluated for depressive and anxiety symptoms. The Future Directed Therapy group showed significant improvement in both depression and anxiety test scores.

The doctors cannot create a new brain for the depressed patients.  However, they have found a way to help depressed patients develop new cognitive pathways that will enable them to improve the outlook and perhaps in time will be able to acquire the feeling of optimism they desire.  The study indicates that a better outlook for depressed patients is possible.

Are We All Becoming Highly Sensitive People?


DSC_0098 © by fantasy prof

Are we all becoming HSP’s?  The question recently crossed my mind for a number of reasons:

  • when I tell someone that I write about highly sensitive people, frequently people whisper to me that they are highly sensitive too.
  • the recent love affairs we have had with the penguin, Happy Feet, in New Zealand and the race horse, Zenyatta, in the United States tell me that there is a inner longing for a happier, friendlier world.
  • I suspect that Arab spring and other uprisings are an expression of exasperation at the systemic violence in that part of the world and a move toward a more humanitarian model of society.

What do all of these things have to do with the highly sensitive trait?  For starters, one of the main characteristics of highly sensitive people is their empathy.  Whether we are identifying empathy in ourselves, having empathy for an animal in trouble, an animal with a great spirit, or empathy for those who may be suffering extreme poverty, all of these actions speak to evidence of empathic sensitivity. Although systemic abuse like racism has been challenged for the past half century, social media is now making evident how far we have come as we stretch across borders and boundaries of all kinds to extend a helping hand to each other.

Many people do not know that there is a relationship between violence and the highly sensitive trait. According to this Time Magazine article about a study by Dr. Norman Geschwind of Harvard University, people who are born highly sensitive do so because the mother experiences severe and violent stress during pregnancy increasing testosterone in her system which causes developmental changes in the fetus.  The result is a highly sensitive person with great empathy and an inability to tolerate the pain of violence in any form.

The upside is that HSP’s are holistic, complex thinkers with significant creativity, although they may also suffer from any number of genetically based diseases.According to Elaine Aron, PhD, and the author of the Highly Sensitive Person, highly sensitive people are one out of every five people.  Essentially HSP’s are 20% of the people on the planet – over 1 billion people!  That’s a lot of people.

Empathy seems to be on the rise; perhaps the violent early years of human life have brought us to a point where we are becoming nonviolent.  That would be truly wonderful.

Mom’s Psychological State Affects Infant’s Development

Happy Baby! © by The Last Manx Elf


Article first published as Mom’s Psychological State Affects Infant Development on Technorati.

A new study has found that the psychological state of pregnant women has important implications for the development of newborns. Many people are aware that a fetus responds to music and can feel the heartbeat of the mother. On November, 13 Medical News Today reported a new research study which offers insights into pregnancy and child development which augments our existing knowledge

The new study finds that the fetus absorbs the mother’s psychological state.  If the mother is happy the fetus will take in that information.  And if the mother is unhappy or depressed the fetus will take in that information as well.  It would appear that the fetus normalizes itself to the mother whatever her mood or psychological state is.

The University of California-Irvine recently concluded a study investigating pregnant mothers and the development of their children. The participating pregnant women were tested for depression during pregnancy and afterward.  The development of the children was monitored as well.

Researchers observed how the mother’s psychological state affected the child’s development.  Although it would make sense that a depressed mother would have a more negative impact on a child than a happy mother, the findings suggest that the most impact was felt by children whose mothers’ psychological state varied.  Happy mothers during and after pregnancy and depressed mothers during and after pregnancy were the easiest situations for the young child to handle.

The findings makes sense because to a newborn their greatest need is safety. Their survival depends on it.  The stability of the emotional climate apparently is most important to the infant because without the ability to have stable expectations, the child will feel unsafe and have trouble adapting to the environment and dealing with it. The researchers noticed that mothers with more emotional variability has children who developed more slowly.

There are more and more studies being done to evaluate the impact of maternal health and well being on a child’s health and development.  Past studies have indicated that the condition of the mother can make a big difference. The study’s press release in Psychological Science, where the research results will be published, noted that people who were born during the Dutch famine of 1944, most of whom had starving mothers, were likely to have health problems like obesity and diabetes later.

It is wonderful that so much attention is being paid to the early development of children.  Hopefully all of this knowledge will enable us to become smarter about how we foster the healthy development of children and provide a way to minimize the potential negative effects of inhospitable early life conditions for newborns.

New Findings On Depression And The Hate Circuit

Depressed © by Sander van der Wel


Article first published as New Findings on Depression and the Hate Circuit on Technorati.


New information has emerged from a study conducted in China illuminating the relationship between depression and the “hate circuit” according to an October 6, 2011 article in Medical News Today. Professor Jianfeng Feng from the University of Warwick in the UK, in collaboration with six other scientists, led the study which shows that depression causes an uncoupling of the hate circuit in the human brain.

The hate circuit was discovered in in 2008 in a study by UCL Professor Semir Zeki. He found that three regions of the brain were activated when individuals were shown images of people they hated.  The three regions are located in the cortex and subcortex of the brain and are the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen. As a result of his study, these regions have come to be identified as the hate circuit.

Professor Feng’s study was an exploration of brain activity differences in 39 depressed patients and 37 non-depressed individuals. The depressed group included participants who were both first episode major depressive disorder (FEMDD) and resistant major depressive disorder (RMDD).

The scientists created a template of the neural connections in 90 different brain regions from the healthy participants and identified 6 different functional systems of the brain that became the basis of their exploration of the depressed patients. The greatest difference they found was the uncoupling hate circuit although major changes occurred in circuits related to risk and action responses, reward and emotion, attention and memory processing. The neural differences are called uncoupling to describe the disconnection in normal brain functioning which in depressed patients occurred over 80% of the time or more in the depressed patients.

The published report of the scientists is uncertain about the meaning of their findings although they make the observation: “Depressed patients … have problems in controlling negative thoughts and so a potential hypothesis is that the functional uncoupling in this circuit may be contributing to impaired cognitive control over pervasive internal feelings of self-loathing or hatred towards others and/or external circumstances.”

It is not clear from the study whether or not there was a genetic basis for the depression in the study participants. However, since much of our behavior is adaptive, depression may be as well.  This study may show that in very negative situations, some people chose depression as a coping mechanism and that the depressive coping mechanism may actually change brain function.

We Are Onions

onions © by erix!

We Are onions! I had to come to that conclusion after reading John Drouillard’s article about Depression and Ayurveda on the Kripalu website.

Like many others I pay a lot of attention to energy these days looking for new and more effective ways of healing. I feel a need to do things differently, a need for change that has caused me to learn TM and become a Reiki Master.  As an HSP, I feel very attuned to energy so I am in my element when thinking about energy.  But Dr. Drouillard’s article gave me pause and made me think differently about it.

In his article Dr. Douillard talks about the Ayurvedic concept of layers of consciousness.   They are called koshas, which translates into sheaths. They are layers of intelligence around the real self like layers around an onion. The five koshas represent:

  1. the body
  2. life force or prana and chi
  3. the mind
  4. higher reasoning
  5. intuitive or metaphysical consciousness.
According to Dr. Drouillard,  mystical consciousness is located in the heart and is called anandamaya kosha. It is also called bliss consciousness.  This natural intuitive and mystical awareness becomes wounded so that we start to protect and hide it which leads to our despair.One way to look at it is that we are all carrying a secret, the secret of ourselves in a world that often uses cynicism as self protection, and it takes courage to stand up to it. It is not accidental that as the human race is evolving to the next level that we are becoming more heart centered and our social structures will have to as well.As John Douillard writes, we all start relating from this anandamaya kosha; we all start off whole.  We lose our wholeness when we need to cover up who we are to survive in this world.  A big part of our journey in this life is to rediscover our bliss consciousness. Highly sensitive people have a major role to play on our path to renewal.We have the capacity to see the layers of the onion and help others discover those layers in themselves.

Scientific Breakthrough Reverses Cellular Aging

Cells © by RambergMediaImages

Article first published as Scientific Breakthrough Reverses Cellular Aging on Technorati.


Researchers at Inserm AVENIR in France have created a “rejuvenation therapy” that reverses cellular aging. The cells that the researchers rejuvenated were from donors who were over 100 years old! The findings were reported by Medical News Today on November 6, 2011.

The research team directed by Inserm researcher Jean-Marc Lemaitre of the Functional Genomics Institute used a technique which created induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and rejuvenated and human embryonic stem cells (hESC). Human embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated multiple-function cells which have DNA and can become any other type of cell.

ISPC cells, which have similar characteristics to the human embryonic stem cells,  have the capacity to be converted to many other different types of cells in the body,. They are developed by reprogramming somatic cells which are most of the biological cells in the body.   They could be thought of as a seed cell that through its ability to divide and subdivide can develop into most other types of cells in the body.  Using the iSPC cell bypasses the controversial ethics of using embryonic stem cells because they can be created from the cell of a person being treated or another adult donor.

The scientists developed a technique using six genetic factors while erasing signs of aging.  The resultant iSPC cells had the metabolic and renewal characteristics of young cells. This study was not the first to attempt cell aging reversal.  In the past four genetic factors had been used.  Those experiments were unsuccessful because the scientists were unable to remove the barrier of senescence, which is the last stage of cellular aging.  When senescence occurs, the cells lose the ability to subdivide and therefore rejuvenation and renewal cannot happen.

In the Inserm study, scientists added two more genetic factors which made the difference and they were effective in creating the rejuvenating cells.  To create this result, they used the skin cells of a 74 year old man, and reprogrammed the cells in vitro, meaning the cells were isolated to effect the cell changes. The test was then conducted on individuals with the ages of 92, 94, 96 and 101.

“Signs of aging were erased and the iPSCs obtained can produce functional cells, of any type, with an increased proliferation capacity and longevity,” explains Jean-Marc Lemaitre who directs the Inserm AVENIR team. “Our strategy worked on cells taken from donors in their 100s. The age of cells is definitely not a reprogramming barrier.”

One of the advantages of this therapeutic approach is that in using an individuals own cells, the new reprogrammed cells will be accepted by the individuals immune system and therefore increase the chances of a successful rejuvenation therapy.

Perhaps immortality is truly around the corner!