Migraine Headaches and Adolescent Suicidal Risk

by John A. Speyrer

When the patient allowed himself to relive his birth feelings in primals the migraine headaches
resolved themselves between ten and fifteen minutes. The number of migraine
headaches he had after therapy were greatly reduced and when he
has an attack he is able to resolve it quickly.

--E. Michael Holden, M.D., in Primal Pathophysiology

A recent study appearing on WebMD reported that adolescents who get frequent daily migraine headaches have a higher suicide risk.

Those whose headaches were accompanied with auras (visual elements) had an even much higher risk. The author, Shuu-Jiun Wang, M.D., conducted the study in Taiwan. The investigation included 7900 adolescents aged 12 to 14 years of age and its results were published in the May 1, 2007 issue of Neurology. No control groups were used.

One hundred and twenty-two subjects were identified. Each had "15 or more headache days per month for more than 3 months, with each headache lasting 2 hours or more daily." The two most significant psychiatric problems, besides the headaches, were major depression (21%) and panic attacks (19%). Girls were more likely to have depression: 26 vs 7%.

Suicide risk was measured by their responses to the following statements:

"If in the past month they had

  • wished they were dead,
  • wanted to hurt themselves,
  • thought about killing themselves,
  • thought about a way to kill themselves, or
  • tried to kill themselves."

Two prominent researchers and authors in the field of the regressive psychotherapies have acknowledged that just about any psychosomatic affliction in the body's system, is due to birth trauma. Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, believes,

". . . postnatal psychological traumas, in and of themselves, are not sufficient to account for the development of emotional disorders. This is also true, even to a much greater extent, for psychosomatic symptoms and disorders. . . . . A considerable portion of this energetic charge is perinatal in origin and reflects the fact that the memory of birth has not been adequately processed and continues to exist in the unconscious as an emotionally and physically incomplete gestalt of major importance." (Stanislav Grof in Psychology of the Future, pps. 127-129 )

Dr. Arthur Janov, clinical psychologist, believes that many severe psychiatric problems have their source in the trauma of birth, including drug addictions and panic attacks. In, Primal Man: The New Consciousness, he writes, "Neurotics with psychosomatic ailments are in a constant state characterized by unconnected first-line Primal Pain." (p. 88)

If a relationship between psychosomatic disease and birth trauma does indeed exist, it would not be surprising that there would be a corelation between suicidality and migraine headaches. According to their findings this relationship also exists between all other psychopathological conditions including depression.

A migraine study was discussed at the American Headache Society 49th Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago in the summer of 2007. Conducted by Nathalie Jetté, MD, assistant professor of neurology from the University of Calgary, Alberta, the study found that "major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia" were common comorbities. These psychiatric disorders were found to be twice as prevalent in the sufferers of migraine headaches. (Medscape) .

In my thirties I developed an infrequent non-headache type of migraine with auras of scintillating scotomas which slowly drifted across my fields of vision of both eyes. I was unable to read during or half an hour after an attack. I have had glaucoma and hypertension for much of my life.

At age 74 after thirty plus years of reliving my birth traumas, my intraocular pressure as well as hypertension became normal except in the period preceding a primal birth re-living. I have found a number of studies which show a relationship between systemic hypertension and intraocular pressure.

My article, Peri-Natal Themes of Death & Dying In the Art of Edvard Munch , shows how, in his artistic expression, the artist reveals his birth and pre-birth trauma, in particular severe head pressure.

Although migraine headaches have been purported to be genetic in origin, neurologist, E. Michael Holden, in Symptom Formation in Neurosis (The Journal of Primal Therapy, Vol. 2, Nr. 1, p. 8, 1976) writes that migraine headaches might actually have their source in birth trauma. He believes "that migraine evolves in relation to physical trauma very early in life, most commonly at birth," and believes that ". . . (a) neurotically tight cervix of the mother during delivery could lead to excessive pressure on the infant's head from the bony pelvic outlet." Such pressures may be a reason why vacuum extraction, along with forceps delivery, may become a necessary, although ultimately traumatic, birthing technique.

Years later, Dr. Holden made an audio tape in which he stated:

My birth was an unpleasant affair including a 20 to 25 second cardiac arrest. During this time I had a small stroke in my left brain stem and right sub-cortical brain, but as you might imagine, my birth record reads as one might expect--'normal birth.'
Somewhat earlier than that, in approximately the sixth month of gestation my mother and I nearly bled to death, an event I learned about in 1975, on Christmas Day, when I had an extraordinary opportunity to have a detailed and completed intrauterine primal in which I experienced complete weightlessness, saw a sea of red in front of me, tasted bloody amniotic fluid, knew that I was dying and knew that my mother was dying. But that was only the feeling. I did not die; I was only starting the process (Transcriber's Note: Refer to Arthur Janov's Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, pages 275-276 which appears to be this pre-birth primal, which Dr. Holden is describing in this rather long tape transcription of his recounting his spiritual and primal experiences).

Large heads at birth almost assure a greater amount of pressure trauma. Dr. Holden continues, "If pressure on the scalp were severe then scalp vessels might well constrict in response to the pain. . . . It has been shown that the deep and surface blood vessels of the head have a dense innervation with nerves of the sympathetic nervous system, so the neural basis for vasoconstruction is certainly present." (Holden, op.cit., p. 9.)

Dr. Harry A. Teitelbaum writes in Psychosomatic Medicine, in a chapter on neurological disorders, that "(m)igraine is a classic psychosomatic cerebral vascular disturbance that some authors consider to be ". . . related to unexpressed anger as well as to associated vasospasm of branches of the internal carotid artery." (my emphasis) (p. 265)

Neurologist E. Michael Holden believes that migraine may be caused by the repressed memory of torsion of the neck during birth. The person reliving this aspect of his birth with "...extreme stretching of the carotid and/or the vertebral arteries may initiate the reflex vasoconstriction in response to pain... (A) reactive dilation would be expected to occur due to the buildup of waste products in cells supplied by the previously vasoconstricted arteries." (Holden, op cit, p. 9)

He feels that this sequence may become a prototypic response to head or neck pain endured at birth. As stated, there is "vasoconstriction of cerebral arteries when stressed, followed by painful dilation of those arteries after the stress (e.g., migraine)." ibid, p. 9-10.

In a British publication, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Vol. 21 pp. 333-339, Holden describes how a migraine patient in primal therapy was able to resolve his migraine attacks within minutes by re-engaging the trauma. He writes that the patient learned that during birth the left side of his head was traumatized and that he had started drowning in amniotic fluid.

He concludes by writing:

"1. Psychosomatic symptoms occur in people who do not feel their early life pain in primals.

2. As soon as one can re-experience childhood pain (editor's note: "especially pre- and peri-natal pain") in primals, then the biological motive for symptom formation gradually ceases. It is an either/or relationship. One has a choice. One can either have the symptom, or one can re-experience the pain which caused it, complete a sequence of healing, and resolve it.

3. It is almost invariably true in our experience that a symptom represents a fragment or partial representation of an early feeling state during a trauma in infancy. (editor's note: It is presently acknowledged that most psychosomatic symptoms originate in birth trauma rather than infantile trauma.) This removes the symstery surrounding the general query" "Why one symptom -- rather than another?

Individuals in primal therapy who gain access to very early life memories can learn what specific events caused their particular symptoms. It often takes several years of primals before that deep access is possible. . . .

At the time of one's first major trauma it appears that a form of maladaptive visceral learning occurs. This is perhaps related to imprinting in animals, and it determines the specific way one will react to all later-life stresses and pain. For an asthmatic, although the prototypic feeling may be asphyxiation, an asthmatic response may later occur to a wide variety of stresses. This is true for hypertension, colitis, and migraine as well.

There are specific actual real-life events which happened in the infancy (editor's note: "and especially pre- and peri-natally") of those with psychosomatic illnesses, and in primal therapy one has access to those events. By resolving the feeling of origin of psychosomatic illnesses, we are addressing ourselves to causal mechanisms of neurosis, and no longer must resign ourselves to only treating these disorders symptomatically."

Dr. Arthur Janov, in Imprints, The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, makes a distinction between headaches caused by transient pathology of the muscles and of the blood vessels, the former being pressure or tension headaches while the later being migraines. Tension headaches have their source when ". . . the infant's head was literally pounding against the mother's public arch for hours" (p. 88). This is seen in patients when in duplicating this action, they butt or pressure their heads against the wall during therapy sessions. He believes that this birth trauma is the origin of the head banging of neonates in their cribs.

He describes migraineurs as often reexperiencing ". . . oxygen loss at birth coupled with the associated build-up of excess carbon dioxide." The gas dilates the blood vessels and is the cause of the migraine. Stress or tension in the adult thus ". . . evokes that original loss of oxygen with all its painful repercussions." The blood vessels become constricted because of the physical pain as the body attempts to reabsorb the oxygen (ibid., p. 89).

It is reasonable to propose that those who are subject to frequent migrainous type headaches are those who had had traumatic births, especially involving the head. According to a Karolinska Institute of Stockholm study, birth trauma is a risk factor in suicide as well as a source of malignant aggression.

Another study conducted by the same facility - (Perinatal Origin of Adult Self-Destructive Behavior, Acta Psychiatiati. Scand. 1987; 76(4): 364-71) is synopsized below:

"The objective of the study was to test whether obstetric procedures are of importance for eventual adult behavior of the newborn, as ecological data from the United States seem to indicate. Birth record data were gathered for 412 forensic victims comprising suicides, alcoholics and drug addicts born in Stockholm after 1940, and who died there in 1978-1984. The births of the victims were unevenly distributed among six hospitals. Comparison with 2,901 controls, and mutual comparison of categories, showed that suicides involving asphyxiation were closely associated with asphyxia at birth, suicides by violent mechanical means were associated with mechanical birth trauma and drug addiction was associated with opiate and/or barbiturate administration to mothers during labor. Irrespective of the mechanism transferring the birth trauma to adulthood--which might be analogous to imprinting--the results show that obstetric procedures should be carefully evaluated and possibly modified to prevent eventual self-destructive behavior." (Summary from Medscape.com )

Thus, the correlation between headaches and suicidality is not one of cause and effect, but rather that both are the result of early fetal traumas - in particular, the trauma of birth.

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