Psychotherapy for Migraine
The pain of migraine is physical. It is a sensation that ravages and incapacitates.
Yet psychotherapy can help. This page explores how.
"Not Another Headache"
Do you say this to yourself on a regular basis?
Do you take painkillers? Often?
Perhaps you find that sometimes they help and sometimes not?
For many people their headache is diagnosed as chronic daily headache. For others frequent migraine is the bug bear.
Yet medication is not always the answer. Frequent use of pain-killing medication can lead to overuse headache (rebound headache), for example. You may also wonder whether your problem is really a biochemical one.
Is taking a pill really the answer? Might your problem be more than a physical one?
Migraine as Emotional Distress
In fact, it has been known for hundreds of years that emotional distress triggers headaches. Being angry or sad. Even being happy or excited can trigger migraines.
How Psychotherapy Can Help Migraine
Psychotherapy can help uncover the emotions that can underlie the pain of migraine.
There are many factors which may combine to give an embodied experience of an emotion or feeling. The 'real' pain is perhaps an emotional one, which is hidden, or embedded within an experience of headache or migraine. This can be due to some, or all of the factors in the following short list:
- You suffer from alexithymia, an inability to identify emotions.
- Feelings may be conflicted, or not allowed.
- You try to control feelings in order to manage your pain
An alternative way of describing these kinds of headaches, then, is as a conversion headache, the explanation being that psychological distress is 'converted' into a more manageable physical symptom.
Once a full and detailed medical diagnosis has confirmed headache to be chronic or of the migraine type (and not due to any other medical problem), then often reasons for the headache can be related to the inability to manage difficult emotions (such as anger or anxiety), or to alexithymia (the inability to identify an emotion). What seems to happen often is that some sort of converted, or embodied emotional experience lies at the root of chronic headache and migraine.
The good news is that these experiences can be unravelled in psychotherapy and counselling. Headaches can be investigated. Emotions can be explored.
If you have tried all of the medications and still are in intense pain on a frequent basis from your migraine, it may be time to explore the root of your migraine as being not only biochemical but also psychological and emotional.