October 4, 2018

Psychology and Headaches

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Well-being tagged , , , at 6:00 am by kellyfdennis

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Doctors have long noted a link between stress and headaches. Stress can be related to headache in three ways. Stress can directly set off the biological events underlying headache. Stress can intensify an existing headache. The prolonged presence of a headache can itself begin to exert a psychological toll (or stress) on the individual. The person becomes “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”. Depression and anxiety sometimes occur in people with headaches of long-standing, unremitting origin. (see the full ABCT article here.)

Behavior Therapy Treatment Approaches

The behavior therapist first assists the patient in studying factors that might bring on, maintain, or worsen headaches. The patient may be asked to keep track of these factors each day. This is done with a “headache diary.” The patient also rates pain, frequency, severity, and duration. The information is helpful in judging progress during treatment. Three behavior therapy tech- niques have been developed for use with headache patients: biofeedback ther- apy, relaxation training, and stress coping training.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback teaches patients how to control the bodily processes that bring about headache. For example, in the treatment of tension headache, sensors are attached to the affected muscles (on the skin surface) so that the patient is provided ongoing information, or “feedback,” about activity in the monitored muscles. Armed with this information, the patient strives to lower the muscle activity to a more acceptable level. This is a way of alleviating pain. Biofeedback therapy for migraine involves teaching patients one of two ways to control the body. One way is through control of hand surface temperature. This provides a good index of nervous-system arousal and blood flow. Another way is through monitoring blood flow in the temple area. This is a common site of migraine.

Relaxation Skills

Relaxation also teaches control of one’s body. A common relaxation method is to do a series of exercises. The exercises involve tensing and releasing muscles. This helps the patient to feel relaxed. Biofeedback works with specific bodily response systems. Relaxation works on the entire body.

Stress Coping

Stress coping training provides patients with a general set of problem solv- ing or coping skills. These can be used to manage a wide range of situations

associated with headache. This treatment uses various cognitive and behav- ioral treatment methods. These keep stress factors more manageable. Patients may be taught how to become less reactive emotionally. They may be taught to interpret potentially upsetting situations more objectively. They are taught to manage time, interpersonal situations, and the like. They are also taught to react better to the psychological distress that can result from chron- ic headache itself. Often the behavior therapist will combine all of these methods.

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stefdennis

ponderings on life, food, God, and love

Grace on the Moon

Do Not Weigh Your Self-Esteem on a Scale

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