Migranes/Chronic Pain Illness & Therapy
By: CLARICE STOUT, MA, AMFT
As a person who has migraines for the past 11 years there has been many frustrating moments of wanting that relief or trying to find that right remedy or cure that will take it away. As I journeyed more and more into the mental health field I could see and understand how migraines and other debilitating illnesses that are not noticeable to the human eye can very much so mess with our mental health and our overall well-being. There is some research out there that shows how Migraines and other chronic pain illnesses impact mental health, such as those affected by migraines can be more prone to anxiety and depression. Having pain like a migraine and trying to push through things that you have to do can be really stressful. As I began to find alternatives to help me with my migraines, I saw how participating into my own therapy and bringing up my chronic pain of migraines to my therapist showed me a new path to help me with my course of fighting back against this pain.
With that being said my pain with my migraines got so bad where I was experiencing shooting pain behind the eye, neck pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and sometimes almost blindness in the eye where that migraine was behind! Going to a medical doctor was my first step to help me with these painful migraines, and when I started talking about this pain with my therapist I found that therapy helped me with my experience with migraines, because with a new perspective from the help of my therapist I found that my mental health was being impacted by my migraines by bringing on a lot of anxiety. I was anxious about when the next big migraine would hit, I was anxious that a migraine would happen at work and what I would do to try to make them go away. Sometimes when I would feel a migraine coming on, I would get so stressed in the moment that looking back now that stress probably made the pain worse.
All that to say, I took an interest in metal health in correlation with chronic pain illnesses and saw how chronic pain can affect mental health, and I also saw how therapy could be a helpful with this pain. Stress and pain are sometimes like a cycle, such as stress can be a trigger to cause that chronic pain to become inflamed or made worse whatever that pain may be. Then once that pain is heightened the anxiousness and depressed feelings set into place and those symptoms of anxiety or depression come out. This cycle can be very unhealthy, and with the help of therapy for chronic pain illnesses, and with the right treatment from your medical doctor there can be more control over these pains. A couple ways therapy can be helpful for migraines or other debilitating pains is that treatment can focus on modifying thoughts to make those thoughts more beneficial and adaptive in regard to the pain that causes anxiety or depression. Another way it can be helpful is providing relaxation strategies and management tools for stress. Managing triggers that may cause the pain, exploring wellness activities like healthy sleep patterns, eating, and physical movement that can work for you can help lower that pain and or become more manageable.
According to the American Migraine Foundation they have found that 30-60% of all clients who use relaxation, biofeedback, or cognitive-behavioral therapy have less headaches than before they started treatment. This information is also helpful for other debilitating pains, not just migraines. Mindfulness and changes in thought patterns are other tools gained in therapy to help with chronic pain illnesses. For example your mindset can change from “I am upset this pain has full control over me” to “I have experienced this pain before what can I do for myself to know that I am in control and this illness has little to no control over me”. Overall, any support with chronic pain illnesses is very beneficial so you know that you are not alone in that journey in regard to finding what is most beneficial for you.
Written By: CLARICE STOUT
MA, Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist 107743.