Yoga Meditation in Severe Psychosis & Autism

| by Val

A caution from one alternative medicine site warns that meditation instruction can cause physiological or psychological harm - such as: mania, psychosis, hallucination, depression and suicidal tendency, nervous breakdown, sudden surge of of heart rates, chronic pain, and split personalities. Yoga is implicated - as are, certain religious types of meditation and incorrect hypnosis. (link)


While most might not have problems with meditation, case histories compiled by two researchers show that the physiological affects can be detrimental for some.

...Those effects can include facial tics, insomnia, spacing out, and even psychotic breakdowns. Dr. Margaret Singer, clinical psychologist emeritus at Berkeley, with research partner Dr. Janja Lalich, collected case histories from 70 clients seeking treatment for problems that began during meditation practice. Their research presents several examples of these symptoms and notes that prior to meditating, none of the patients had individual or family histories of mental disorders:
- A 36-year-old business executive now lives off welfare as a result of the relentless anxiety attacks and blackouts he suffered after taking up meditation. "Everything gets in through my senses," he told Singer.
- A young woman watched rooms fill with orange fog when she "spaced out" at random moments.
- A 26-year-old man was overwhelmed by rage and sexual urges whenever he went out in public, driving him to stay home to avoid these episodes
. (Link)


A study indicated that while interest can be strong, as far as using meditation in order to treat mental illness, in the end it might not be a good idea for every type of mental illness.

There is a strong interest in the correlation between yoga (especially meditation) and psychosis. Some reports have described: (1) appearance of psychotic symptoms for the first time after meditation, (2) precipitation of acute psychotic episodes in those with a history of psychosis, after meditation, and conversely there have also been reports of psychotherapeutic benefits for psychotics...The overall impression is that for the 6 months duration of follow up studied, chronic schizophrenics respond to activity in the form of physical training. Also the emphasis on relaxation and awareness of internal sensations which are an essential part of yoga may not be useful for schizophrenics. YOGA AND PSYCHOSIS: RISKS AND THERAPEUTIC POTENTIAL


For some the effect from meditation is as follows. Brain bloodflow patterns showed that the temporal lobes were certainly involved but also that the brain's parietal lobes appeared almost completely to shut down. The parietal lobes give us our sense of time and place. Without them, we may lose our sense of self. (link)


When considering utilization of meditation, one should consider the fact that meditation Alters serotonin levels - During meditation, the brain releases serotonin. People with mild depression might enjoy the increased levels of serotonin because the neurotransmitter can ease their mood. Drugs like Prozac mimic this effect. However, too much serotonin can cause all of the symptoms of Relaxation Induced Anxiety, according to Dr. Solomon Snyder, head of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. In some cases of schizophrenia, an excess of serotonin coupled with meditation can drop-kick someone into psychosis. (link)


Where severe autism is concerned, one needs to use caution. Autism is a spectrum that covers a multitude of possible causes. Relaxation was tried on my autistic daughter with no benefit, except to possibly intensify her already challenging psychosis. 


Everyone tried so hard to help, but the fact for the current time was that we were not dealing with anything near normal, and Sarah was not responding to most of these types of interventions normally. Her world represented an upside down one. Things considered soothing by many, became intolerable for Sarah.

Another therapist wanted to help Sarah to utilize certain relaxation techniques. Mostly, breathing exercises and music. The deliberate breathing required repetition, or ritual. How could I explain to the therapist that this meditative breathing might be bad? Ritual proved harmful to Sarah, and the repetitive breathing might contribute to future absence spells. Past absence spells disturbed her enough to result in violence and/or screaming. Music and repetition (rote) agitated her. Sarah tried relaxation with the therapist, and she engaged in the deliberate breathing, but she looked disturbed; the way she usually looked when dealing with internal conflict. Sarah’s thought processes were fried, and that made repetition of any sort an enemy. Meditation upon meaningless music, breathing, or idle thinking was in  vain. It really pointed to her susceptibility toward spells, as compared to some individual’s susceptibility to hypnotizing. Perhaps Sarah’s involvement in any sort of repetition put her in a trance state, without benefit of suggestion from the hypnotist. All she had was her inner conflict from which to draw. Hello Dr, Wells