Massage Helps Heal PTSD

Massage Helps Heal PTSD

As an HSP with PTSD, I spent a lot of years confused and stressed.

When I first had my “delayed onset” symptoms of PTSD I did not know what they were—still less that highly sensitive people tend to have an excess of the stress hormone cortisol and also often suffer from poor sleep.

I am not sure if it’s my HSP mind or just me, but I am the queen of connecting up the dots—so I soon realized my PTSD symptoms were connected to an early childhood trauma—surgery on my ears with not enough ether. (Ether is traumatic enough!)

But figuring that out that didn’t help me sleep and didn’t relieve the PTSD.

I was “hyper aroused”—although I didn’t know the term. I did know my ears were ringing but stopped if I was out in nature.

Doctors didn’t seem to know what to do. Unfortunately all they did was prescribe antidepressants. I was crying, so I must  be depressed.  Right?  I mean sadness is always a symptom. (Or not!)

Of course these strategies all interfere with sleep, so I was pretty frantic.

Massage To The Rescue

I was suffering so much that I started to look for solutions elsewhere. I sought the help of my chiropractor, who found a way to send me his massage therapist to my house every week, and billed my Blue Cross.

Boy was I lucky! This young man was not just a massage therapist, he was a healer. Bless him! I am sure, that his healing gift was one reason the massage helped my PTSD and insomnia.

Massage And The Healing Power Of The Laying On Of Hands

The beneficial effects of massage have been known since the beginning of recorded history. It was also called the “laying on of hands” by some and has an ancient and honored history. Essentially it heals through intention: if the intent of the person touching is to heal—healing is transmitted.

Although an ancient practice, massage is a currently a popular treatment for many conditions. On their website, the Mayo Clinic confirms the useful effects of massage therapy: “While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety

  • Digestive disorders

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia related to stress

  • Myofascial pain syndrome

  • Paresthesias and nerve pain

  • Soft tissue strains or injuries

  • Sports injuries

  • Temporomandibular joint pain

Of course “research” is only ”needed” so insurance companies will cover this.

The Mayo clinic goes on to add

“Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist.”

Imagine that!

Fortunately, massage is now being researched. One example is from Oprah Winfrey’s website where she featured an article discussing the research of Mark Rapaport, M.D., the chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles:

 “[Neuroscientist] Rapaport’s curiosity led to a study, published last fall, that looked at 53 healthy adults who received one of two types of touch treatments. Blood tests revealed that those who had a Swedish massage with moderate pressure experienced decreases in stress hormones and increases in white blood cells, indicating a boost in the immune system. Meanwhile volunteers who had a “light touch” treatment showed higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding. Based on the findings, Rapaport believes that massage might be effective in treating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.”

No shit. Pardon my French.

I also had a few sessions of EMDR which helped me bring up the deeply buried pain and rage in way I could not have done alone.  According to the EMDR International Association,

“EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.”

EMDR certainly helped. But massage? If I could have massage very week I don’t think I’d need any of the sleep meds I have. But the government does not provide massage.

More’s the pity.

Consider The Healing Benefits Of Massage

The good news for highly sensitive people is that many of the conditions that massage treats are ones that can affect us. Sometimes we even suffer from multiple conditions that are treatable with massage.

Given the extensive and proven benefits of massage, it is worth considering as a treatment for the various health conditions of highly sensitive people.


Motivation And Your Brain: What You May Not Know

Motivation And You Brain - HSP Health Blog


Do you seem to have different motivations that others?

Do you have respond differently than others to similar events and stimuli? Check your brain.

It may hold an important clue.

Motivation is an important subject, one that has been the subject of intense interest for thousands of years. Human societies tend to create a profile of “normal behavior”, which drives expectations, rules and the reward/punishment system used to control the population. It also drives the economy. So definitions about what people are like have important consequences.

Motivation has been defined for many years as either approach or avoidance. It is also known as the fight or flight response. The conventional wisdom has been that the approach motivation comes from the left hemisphere and that the avoidance motivation comes from the right hemisphere.

Conventional wisdom treats left brained behavior as the norm. Might we call that extroversion?

Recent research sheds some new light on conventional wisdom about motivation. According to a new study recent study published in PLoS ONE by psychologists Geoffrey Brookshire and Daniel Casasanto of The New School for Social Research in New York and publicized in Medical News Today, motivation is not a cut and dried matter of the hemispheres of the brain.

Apparently handedness plays a major role in motivation. According to Medical News Today, “Brookshire and Casasanto’s study challenges this idea, showing that a well-established pattern of brain activity, found across dozens of studies in right-handers, completely reverses in left-handers.”

Most highly sensitive people are more right brained than left brained. In addition, left-handedness is also associated with the highly sensitive trait since highly sensitive people can be left-handed or have left-handedness in their families. This study demonstrates that the differences between extroverts and introverts are not simply differences of personality.

Up until now, left hemisphere neural stimulation has been used to treat depression and anxiety, two conditions associated with being highly sensitive. This study suggests that a change in neural stimulation to the right hemisphere might be more productive.

Perhaps it will. Of course, we might want to consider letting people be different rather than to try to make everyone the same. Perhaps then we would not have so much depression and anxiety.

Is Depression A Human Invention?


This article was first published in Technorati.

New information has emerged from a study conducted in China illuminating the relationship between depression and the hate circuit of the brain 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 of the 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 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.

Are You Aware Of Sporadic Cases Of Schizophrenia?

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US scientists have discovered that sporadic cases of schizophrenia do happen according to a recent news story by the BBC.  The journal, Nature Genetics, reported the study findings.

This is an important study for highly sensitive people, since schizophrenia is on the list of genetic diseases associated with the highly sensitive trait.  In 2003, David Ritchey’s important work on the highly sensitive trait was published.  The book, The H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P., includes an exploration of the many genetic diseases associated with high sensitivity, and lists schizophrenia as one of the HSP diseases.

The report showed that “showed that “fresh mutations” in DNA are involved in at least half of schizophrenia cases, when there is no family history of the illness, ” according to the BBC August 7, 2011 article, Scientists make schizophrenia breakthrough.  The scientists in the study believe that as many as half of the incidents of schizophrenia are sporadic cases of schizophrenia.  They discovered that as many as 40 genes mtated in a way that causes schizophrenia.

These were what is called de novo mutations which means they were gene mutations that did not come from the parents but came from some other cause.  According to the National Institutes of Health, NIH, a de novo mutation occurs only in the egg, sperm or right after fertilization – independently of the parent’s genetic code.  According to the new study findings, as many as forty different genes show mutation leading to schizophrenia.

Gene mutation has been the subject of another research effort led by Dr. Norman Geschwind.  His findings, called the Geschwind Theory, show how stress in the mother during pregnancy increases testosterone in her body causing genetic changes in the fetus.  These changes typically occur early in the pregnancy, resulting in left-handedness and a variety of diseases.  The Geschwind Theory was discussed in David Ritchey’s book, The H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P.

All of these studies seem to be pointing to the anomalous development of highly sensitive people, brought on by stress in the mother.  Although there can be many factors causing a particular outcome, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that stress in a pregnant mother increases the chance of a highly sensitive person being born

Food Causes Cell Death

Salmonella invades human cells © by Nutloaf

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Food Causes Cell Death? According to Science Daily, “Excess nutrients, such as fat and sugar, don’t just pack on the pounds but can push some cells in the body over the brink. Unable to tolerate this “toxic” environment, these cells commit suicide.”

This new information released last month by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis scientists and published in Cell Metabolism, shows that protein building RNA, which is related to DNA, the blueprint for our biology, is apparently also playing a role in the decision for a cell to die.  

The cell death process is put in place when large amounts of metabolic stress create such toxic conditions in the body that the cells cannot survive. According to the Science Daily article, “Though cell suicide is a natural process that protects healthy tissues from damaged cells, it can sometimes fall out of balance. If the cell death pathway gets shut down, damaged cells may divide and lead to cancer. On the other hand, too much cell death due to abnormal metabolites, such as high levels of fats and sugar, can impair the function of tissues in the body…”

This information follows on the heels of another study that demonstrated that fat cells are not dormant or inert as most people think.  The study which appears in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research according to this  Science Daily article, found six totally new proteins and 20 other proteins in the fat cells, which indicates that fat cells are very active in the body.

Both of these studies demonstrate the dynamic nature of the human system, the importance of environmental factors and the natural processes that exist to help us maintain balance.

Highly sensitive people are susceptible to many types of illnesses, diabetes and cancer being two of them.  It is important for HSP’s to know the role that fat, and sugar, play in creating destructive conditions in the body. Cell death is the first step on a destructive path that can result in chronic disease and organ death.

Ayurveda’s diet models are very effective for minimizing the consumption of unnecessary fats and sugars while maintaining balance in the body.  The two substances. fat and sugar, can create considerable stress in the body – something HSP’s need to avoid. Ayurveda’s focus on the effects of the subtle energies in food enable them to offer diet recommendations that create a supportive physical culture compatible with good health.

Stress in the Womb

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There is a growing awareness that stress in the womb plays a major role in the creation of genetic diseases and the highly sensitive trait.  Maternal stress during pregnancy results in higher levels of testosterone in the body and by extension a fetus. The higher levels of testosterone change brain development increasing the chance of genetic diseases, the highly sensitive trait as well as high creativity and giftedness.

The BBC  Mum’s stress is passed to baby in the womb reported recently about a study in the journal Translational Psychiatry showing that women under the stress of potential violence have children with a genetic change in the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), which regulates the response to stress, making the children more sensitive to stress.

The article discusses how a change occurs in methyation, an important biological process in “gene expression.”  The best lay explanation comes from Discovery. This is their description:

“Methylation is a process by which a gene’s behavior is altered, but the gene itself isn’t changed. This is almost like following all the directions in baking a batch of cookies correctly, except for the oven temperature. Even though all of the ingredients are the same, those cookies won’t bake — or behave — the same way when baked a couple hundred degrees lower than they should be.In methylation,  environmental exposures or different lifestyle choices have the potential to cause methyl groups, which are groups of one carbon and three hydrogens, to land on top of our genes and change how they are expressed. This, in turn, changes the ability of our genes to share the directions they contain for making our bodies’ proteins.”

Apparently, stress in the womb affects the methylation process during pregnancy, altering gene expression.  Methylation seems to be a major factor in the biochemical processes responsible for a fetus becoming a highly sensitive person.

This is just one study, but it points to an increasing awareness of the impact of stress in the womb in the creation of highly sensitive people.  It is an important tool for developing approaches to minimize genetic diseases of all kinds and shows us how genetic mutations and environmental factors can create unintended results.

For more information about the traits of highly sensitive people, HSP Health offers information about the biology and characteristics of HSP’s.

What Causes the HSP Trait?


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What causes the HSP trait? In the 1980’s the findings of an important medical study were released.  The study laid a biological and scientific basis for understanding the highly sensitive trait.

Dr. Norman Geschwind, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, conducted a study of 3000 people with Dr. Peter Behan, a neurologist at the University of Glasgow.  He was attempting to discover the correlation between left handedness, learning disorders and genetic diseases.  The report, titled  “Cerebral Dominance” revealed his findings.

Apparently what causes the HSP trait is stress during pregnancy which sets a chain of events in motion that results in changes to the development of the child.  Higher levels of testosterone in the mother caused by stress cause the fetus to develop differently because the testosterone creates reserve lateralization of the brain. Reverse lateralization of the brain slows the left brain’s development as a result of the increased testosterone and advances a greater developed right brain.

One result is that brain functions may be located in atypical places in the brain -an example would be language skills changed to a location in the right brain;  speech problems may be a result.  Another result is a greater chance of  left-handedness, a known characteristic of highly sensitive people.  Since each side of the brain controls the opposite handed, handedness located in the right brain results in left-handedness – an HSP effect that is more pronounced in males than females.

The study that Dr. Geschwind did with Dr. Behan showed left-handed people were 2 and 1/2 more times more likely to have autoimmune disorders and 10 times more likely to have learning disabilities.  Near relatives of left-handed people can also be affected and may acquire HSP traits.  Apparently there is a familial genetic basis for these conditions so that any family member can be right handed and also experience learning difficulties, autoimmune disorders and other human genetic diseases because the family has a history of left-handedness and the highly sensitive trait.  It is possible that what causes the HSP trait in some individuals is a familial genetic condition, possibly from a prior generation where stress during pregnancy resulted in the birth on an HSP child.

It is amazing that stress can be so powerful that it can cause a human being to become a different person – that it can effect such a powerful change in a human being.  Violence and the threat of violence are bad enough under ordinary circumstance.  When they occur during pregnancy, a human being can be born with a variety of sensitivities as well as any number of genetic diseases.  That’s a lot of damage!  What causes the HSP trait is stress.  In a world of 7 billion people, reducing stress would seem to be a humane solution to the consequences of excess stress.

Child Abuse Affects The Brain



Article first published as Child Abuse Affects the Brain on Technorati.

The December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has reported the findings of a Yale University Study which shows that child abuse, physical and emotional impact many areas of the brain. The study included the results of the self-reported Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and brain scans of 42 teenagers, with equal numbers of caucasian and African-Americans.  Four multiracial teenagers were also included in the study.

The research showed that the volume of gray matter in the brain was diminished in the teenagers who had suffered the abuse or neglect.  The number of regions of the brain affected was substantial:

According to MedPageToday which reported the study findings these are the regions of the brain and some of their functions that are affected:

  • Physical abuse: left dorsolateral and left rostral prefrontal cortices (executive function), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), right ventral striatum (emotion and motivation), right insula (emotional intelligence), and right temporal association cortex (memory)
  • Physical neglect: left rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), right parietal association cortex (spatial perception), and bilateral cerebellum (balance)
  • Emotional neglect: certain portions of the hypothalamus and midbrain, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(executive function), bilateral rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (cognitive function), right superior frontal gyrus (self awareness ), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), bilateral striatum, bilateral amygdala (processing emotions) and hippocampus (emotions and memory), bilateral cerebellum (balance), and left parietal (perceptual difficulties and problems with speech, writing and math), right temporal (visual memory), and left occipital association cortices (integration of visual information).

Girls showed more brain deficits in areas governing emotional processing and boys were more challenged in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control.

It is apparent that substantial and comprehensive brain damage is created as a result of child abuse. When you consider all the brain regions suffering damage from the abuse, it is inevitable that the individual will have developmental difficulties if not worse.  Sense of self, integration of sensory inputs, executive functioning and impulse control are all vital to effective daily functioning and human development.

It might be time to ask ourselves whether it is worth the cost in health bills, law enforcement and social problems as well as lost human capabilities to continue to ignore child abuse.  Better yet, if we eliminated child abuse, what would our world look like?

Awareness And The Unconscious Mind

Blow Your Mind © by kozumel

Neuroscientist David Eagleman has written a great article about our unconscious brain and the limitations of awareness in Discover Magazine.  Our unconscious mind is a source of fear and awe in many people. We cannot control it. Like our bodies, it operates according to rules and processes that we do not understand. It can make us feel vulnerable.

Dr. Eagleman cites numerous examples of how the unconscious mind operates out of our control. I know this first hand because many years ago I was unable to walk and my conscious mind was unable to help me.

In my 20’s I was unaware that I had a genetic predisposition to get blood clots, called phlebitis. Multiple times I became sick with blood clots that went to my lungs. To control the clots doctors performed surgery to limit the ability of the clots to leave legs to take a trip to my heart, lungs or brain, which meant death.

By the time I finally had surgery, I had been in the hospital in bed for a month.  After the surgery when I tried to get out of bed, I fell flat on my face. I was unable to walk. Needless to say, I was upset and afraid.

I started to watch everyone around me to see if I could learn how one walks.  I would notice the knee joint and how it moved, when the leg lifted and touched down and how the foot moved as part of the walking process. Observing walking was unable to help me walk. My conscious mind was unable to help me. Eventually I left the hospital and six months later after much effort was able to walk again.

David Eagleman’s article makes a distinction between the conscious mind and what he calls implicit procedural memory, a type of memory that holds the capability of complex motor functions and a type of memory that we cannot access.  He demonstrates how the skills of implicit memory cannot be learned through conscious processes by the examples of chicken sexers in Japan and plane spotters in Great Britain during World War II.

In both situations, there was a need to train people to do chicken sexing and spotting enemy planes.  Chicken sexers determine the sex of newborn chicks so they can be separated into egg layers and non egg layers. Since the chicks are virtually identical, the Japanese developed the approach of determining the sex from the back vent where the sex organs are.  Some people became very skilled at it, but when they tried to teach the skill, they were unable to do so.  Only when they had a student attempt the vent sexing and gave positive feedback did the student learn.  This teaching approach gave the implicit procedural memory a way to learn.  Eventually the student had the skill, through trial and error and feedback.  The same approach worked in developing plane spotters in World War II.

Apparently our implicit memory does not want our conscious minds messing with it. It is also apparent that there are somethings we learn by mimicking others – which makes our ability to trust important for our ability to learn.

We simply have to trust our unconscious mind. It has worked well for thousands of years, after all.

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.