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  • Tamara Cavenett

Help with headaches and migraines! part one

Have you had to cancel yet another plan you've been looking forward to? Everyone who lives with chronic headaches and migraines knows the pain and the impact on relationships, jobs, children, and just plain life...

You'll be pleased to know migraine and tension-type headaches respond to the same treatment and do not require different forms of management. However, do consult your doctor/GP to rule out any underlying

medical causes.

What helps?

Cognitive Behvaiour Therapy (CBT) has strong research support with both migraine and tension-type headaches. There is also some emerging research detailing the effect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on both forms. In addition to reducing headaches, CBT can reduce medication consumption, improve depression, decrease anxiety and enhance quality of life.

What's you're most common trigger? For most it's stress, when you feel stressed after a headache, you get stuck in a stress-headache-stress vicious cycle.

But it's not just stress! Professor Paul R Martin a leading expert says that 'Headaches can be triggered by flicker, glare, eyestrain, noise and some odours. Other triggers include too much or too little sleep, dehydration, hunger, consuming certain foods and drinks, and high or low temperature. For females, the menstrual cycle is typically an important factor. Headaches are often precipitated by a number of triggers aggregating together'.

How can a psychologist help?

Seeing a psychologist does not ignore neurobiological mechanisms or genetic susceptibility to headaches or migraines, but simply recognises that pain occurs from an interaction between yourself and the environment. For example, we know both anxiety and distraction can alter pain perceptions. For more detailed information on how a psychologist can help and what treatment would target see Help with headaches and migraines! part two.

What would treatment involve?

A critical first stage is an analysis that looks at why you get the headaches at particular times of the day, why you are getting headaches at this time in your life, why the headaches began, and why you are vulnerable to developing headaches. The answers are just the starting point for treatment which would target the triggers and the main source of the headaches.

The latest research has now shown that avoidance of triggers is no longer the goal, therefore treatment focuses on teaching you how to better cope with triggers and desensitise. Other components include relaxation, and cognitive therapy targeting dysfunctional thoughts and underlying beliefs that may maintain headaches.

Want some more information on migraine-based therapy? We can recommend this book or contact us.

Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Ambro at

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