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Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

Psychology, Psychiatry, and Mental Health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Health: Doctors might soon ask, "What's your sign?" Saturday, August 21, 2004 By Erika Niedowski, The Baltimore Sun Pisces (Feb. 19-March ...

 

  1. #1

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    Doctors might soon ask, "What's your sign?"
    Saturday, August 21, 2004
    By Erika Niedowski, The Baltimore Sun

    Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): Governed by Neptune and symbolized by the fish. Compassionate, introspective, artistic. Often dreamy and impractical. May be prone to schizophrenia, epilepsy or bipolar disorder.

    It may sound like some kind of new, madcap astrology, but several scientists are becoming convinced that our birth month may predispose us to particular diseases.

    Studies have shown that schizophrenia is more common among those born in late winter or early spring. Multiple sclerosis is associated with births in April, May and June. And epilepsy occurs more frequently in those with birthdays from December to March.

    The findings may seem whimsical or — depending on which month you eat cake and unwrap presents — alarming. But researchers hope the emerging patterns will offer clues into the origins of a variety of illnesses that, despite advances in treatment, have no known cause.

    "It makes you think differently about disease," said Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, who has studied the association between birth month and narcolepsy.

    "Most people tend to think that disease is really something that is determined by your genes or what happens just before the disease occurs," he said. "Maybe there are a number of things that can happen well before."

    In the latest study, published in the current edition of the journal Neurology, scientists at the National Cancer Institute found that adults born in January and February had the highest risk of brain cancer. Those with birthdays in July and August had the lowest risk.

    The paper's lead author, NCI epidemiologist Alina Brenner, is the first to offer a caveat: The findings could be the result of chance.

    But separate studies in Britain and Norway have identified a similar correlation between birth season and risk of brain tumors in children, with a statistical "excess" of births in winter and a "deficit" in summer.

    If the association turns out to be real, Brenner said, it suggests that exposures early in a child's development — at any point from conception to the first few months after birth — could have a hand in the genesis of the disease. Although it's not clear what those exposures are, they could include viruses, environmental toxins or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.

    Seasonal birth patterns have been most firmly established in schizophrenia patients. Danish researchers reported several years ago that the risk of developing the disorder was highest among those born in February and March and lowest among those with birthdays in August and September.

    For his part, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, research psychiatrist at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., has ruled out the possibility that chance alone explains the findings.

    "It could be chance if it were one study of 250 people, or a few dozen people here or a few dozen people there," he said. "When you're dealing with a couple hundred thousand people and 200 studies, the chances of it being chance are zero-point-zero. It's remarkably consistent."

    The leading explanation implicates a seasonal infection that could be disturbing the child's normal brain development, which may help explain why other central-nervous-system disorders also are more common in those with winter births.

    "We know that infectious agents have a seasonality — influenza being the most striking," Torrey said. "Therefore, you certainly have to think of infectious agents infecting the mother late in pregnancy or infecting the newborn in the first few months of life."

    Stanford's Mignot and a group of colleagues from France published a paper in the journal Sleep last year linking birth month with another disorder: narcolepsy. Patients with that condition are regularly seized with sleep during waking hours.

    Researchers compared the birth dates of 886 narcoleptics being treated at sleep clinics in Montpellier, France; Montreal, and California to those of more than 35 million people in the general population.

    The distribution of births was strikingly uneven, with the number of narcoleptics born in March (11.9 percent) significantly exceeding the number expected in the general population (8.5 percent).

    Conversely, researchers found a significant drop in the number of narcoleptics born in September (5.6 percent) compared with the number normally expected (8.7 percent).

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  3. #2

    Re: Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disord

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): Governed by Neptune and symbolized by the fish. Compassionate, introspective, artistic. Often dreamy and impractical. May be prone to schizophrenia, epilepsy or bipolar disorder.
    That's very interesting, David. I'm Pisces and the description fits me perfectly, right down to the Bipolar Disorder.
    You are only as good as the company you keep.

  4. #3

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    :o)

    I'm not sure how seriously to take these things but it can be fun to speculate.

    As pointed out in the article, the correlations between astrological signs and vulnerability to certain illnesses may have other explanations. For example, the link between February-March births and schizophrenia may be because that would mean that the mom was in the middle and late part of the pregnancy during the height of the 'flu season -- recent research is showing a possible link between 'flu during pregnancy and schizophrenia, although again it's only a correaltion at this point -- a causal link hasn't yet been established.

    Too bad they didn't publish data for the other signs -- I'm a Taurus...

    I know: I can here the "uh-oh's" all the way over here... :o)

  5. #4

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    LOL! It's still an interesting concept. I showed the link to my boyfriend and he thinks that maybe it could be related to the amount of sun, etc, etc.
    You are only as good as the company you keep.

  6. #5

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by Ash
    I showed the link to my boyfriend and he thinks that maybe it could be related to the amount of sun, etc, etc.
    That's possible, actually - I have a feeling bipolars may be more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder - maybe it's low melamine in the moms during late pregnancy or something like that...

    It is interesting to speculate as to what these correlations mean, though...

  7. #6

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    That's possible, actually - I have a feeling bipolars may be more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder - maybe it's low melamine in the moms during late pregnancy or something like that...
    Could be! He also wondered if there were differences depending on which hemisphere one is born in. Just something to think about!

    I would agree with your thoughts on SAD. I personally suffer *badly* from it and every winter is awful.
    You are only as good as the company you keep.

  8. #7

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    :o)

    I'm not sure how seriously to take these things but it can be fun to speculate.

    Too bad they didn't publish data for the other signs -- I'm a Taurus...

    I know: I can here the "uh-oh's" all the way over here... :o)
    Flake :p

    TAURUS ... rules the throat.
    Taurus ruled by VENUS ....
    VENUS ... Hooked on sweets or comfort foods? Self-indulgent with favorite foods, blood sugar problems, metabolism problems? Make habits hard to break? Hooked on 'sensation" (tactile)?

    BIG GRIN ... there's more! I play with astrology a bit too... its fun and its a little mind boggling at times. I'll have to find and drag out my notes about some of the astrology signs/planets and health ...strictly for fun you understand! :)

    By the way ... PISCES ... is very interesting to explore when thinking about mental health ... its more about "perception".

    nite for now.
    Hugs from Kanadiana ...

  9. #8

    Psychology meets astrology: The zodiac and mental disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by Kanadiana
    TAURUS ... rules the throat.
    Taurus ruled by VENUS ....
    VENUS ... Hooked on sweets or comfort foods? Self-indulgent with favorite foods, blood sugar problems, metabolism problems? Make habits hard to break? Hooked on 'sensation" (tactile)?
    I never heard these traits in connection with Venus -- actually, their not true in my case, except for the tactile part...

    BIG GRIN ... there's more! I play with astrology a bit too... its fun and its a little mind boggling at times. I'll have to find and drag out my notes about some of the astrology signs/planets and health ...strictly for fun you understand! :)
    I think that would be interesting - I'd like to see it...

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