By Published On: April 16, 2024Categories: Migraines

If you have endured the struggle of chronic migraines and headaches, you know firsthand how awful the experience is. There is a lot to unpack when it comes migraines. For example, simply the anxiety of not knowing when the next attack is going to happen can be paralyzing for some. Or, the impact that chronic migraines can have on relationships. AI headFor others, it may be the frustration of people not being able to see their suffering on the outside, so they doubt you, or the severity of this experience.

What people don’t often know if they don’t suffer from migraines is that the experience of a migraine is an entire event. It’s far more than just a headache for most. Many people struggle with auras (seeing visual flashes or patterns during an attack, being sensitive to light and sound, et al). Some will become confused and unable to speak or think clearly, a sort-of temporary aphasia. Vestibular migraines can cause issues with balance, walking, talking, or vertigo, and more. Each person’s experience of migraine varies from one to the next (and triggers also vary), which is part of the reason that medical professionals have found it hard to treat and cure migraines. There are more options available nowadays. But, for many, it’s still not enough.


Chronic Migraines and Chronic Pain: More than a medical issue

In my practice, I’ve worked with many people who struggle with chronic migraines and headaches. While people often tend to believe that migraines and headaches are purely a medical issue, chronic pain has a long history of being linked with mental health, as well. The two — medical and mental health — are often intertwined when it comes to the experience of chronic pain. Sure, sometimes migraines and headaches can have more of a medical origin. Such as the result of a traumatic brain injury, or hormonal shifts, et al. However, it’s also become known that people can be born with a predisposition to migraines or headaches (genetics), and then events in life can trigger it.

For many, these pain triggers can be heavily tied together with mental health.

Chronic pain goes beyond just headaches and migraines. It can be back pain, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), digestive issues, and more. Stress, for one example, can cause unpleasant shifts to happen in the body even for people who aren’t predisposed to an issue. Think of the times you’ve been stressed or anxious and experienced the tension in your body, or mouth drying up, body temperature increasing, stomach churning, head start to hurt, your upper back and neck starting to tighten, chest tightening, higher and more rapid breathing, etc. Not only stress and anxiety, but anger, depression, or various types of trauma (not only large traumas, but a series of relational traumas, such as bullying) can have an impact. The body not only responds to present stimuli and triggers, but the body has a way of storing old experiences when they are not emotionally processed. This storage of old emotional experiences can often trigger chronic pain into effect when the emotions either build up enough in the body, or when they call back to a parallel experience (and/or can exacerbate what’s already possibly present medically into greater severity or frequency of attack).

mental health

Therapy as a treatment for Migraine Headaches

The interconnection between medical and mental health is actually positive for many. This means that people who struggle with chronic migraines and headaches have more options available to them than only medical. I have seen people reduce their frequency and severity of chronic migraines and headaches through therapy. As people, we store so much of our emotional experiences and carry them often without even knowing it. Eventually, we can’t overlook them anymore when we start to feel these stored experiences. You may find yourself suddenly experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, or constant body stress, or physical and mental overwhelm that never used to be so present. The same goes with chronic pain.

For the sake of clarity, I’m not suggesting that everyone’s chronic migraines are mental health related, however I’ve seen that it’s also commonly the case that medical and mental health works together for chronic issues that don’t have an otherwise clear medical explanation. Similarly to how depression can often be helped most by a combination of medication and therapy, I’ve seen with chronic migraines and headaches that a combination of neurological treatment and deeper psychotherapy can be more helpful than many might realize.


Finding Relief

Unfortunately, one of the most difficult stigmas I have seen is the fear that acknowledging mental health triggers for migraines will somehow indicate that the migraines are “all in their head”. Something many migraine sufferers have been told throughout their lives, which has been traumatic and dismissive of incredibly painful and lonely experiences of suffering. However, the struggles, the pain, the torture, the accompanying emotional and life impact is all very real. The underlying causes for these struggles, however they are triggered and reinforced over time, is what needs the attention and can ultimately lead to relief.

To learn more about therapy for migraine headaches and to discuss your situation contact me today.


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