Personality and Stigma Relates to Chronic Headaches

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October 30, 2014

Chronic headache and migraine treatment depends your personality type. Does it surprise you? This is the conclusion of a study conducted by headache experts from the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Pennsylvania, and reported on Medscape Medical News.

The connections between mental health conditions and headaches are not news. However the specific findings of the study suggest that understanding how social stigma affects headache and migraine sufferers may have a lot to do with how they are treated and the type of treatment they should be receiving.

The researchers collected data on 126 episodic and chronic migraine sufferers, who were administered a stigma scale test as well as one of two personality characteristic tests. The results showed that patients with the chronic headache condition exhibited heightened levels of obsessive-compulsive thought patterns and anxiety. They also scored higher on stigma evaluations.

The lead researcher said this elevated level of stress and anxiety arising from worries and concern with how they are perceived, caused these individuals to experience physical pain. “When they get really stressed, they don’t say ‘I’m really stressed out’; they say ‘my stomach hurts’ or ‘my head hurts’ — they turn it into the physical,” She added, “They have a harder time coping with psychological stress so they convert it into physical stress, which is easier to cope with.”

Indeed, comprehensive migraine treatment often includes measures to reduce and improve management of daily stress. Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavior therapy); meditation and breathing exercises are all recommended for people suffering with chronic headaches or migraines. Although it may take a while to eradicate social stigma toward migraineurs, successful migraine treatment like the Omega migraine procedure can help sufferers avoid experiencing the stigma associated with missing workdays and events due to migraine attacks.

The study’s lead author suggested that migraine treatment can be improved when practitioners are able to consider a patient’s personality attributes together with how they deal with stigma related to their chronic headache condition.

So, don’t worry about changing your personality—-you are wonderful just the way you are. Simply make sure to let your doctor know how you feel, and what concerns you are having so he or she can factor that into the decision about which migraine treatment is best for you!

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