Cognitive therapy for headaches is based on the idea that worry leads to muscle tension and muscle tension leads to pain. Most headaches have a psychological piece and in fact have been called “tension headaches.” New research reported in Lancet Neurology now suggests even Migraine headaches have a strong stress related component.
Rather than relying on medications that mask the pain, have nasty side effects and are often ineffective, cognitive therapy for headaches identifies the underlying thoughts people have that cause them stress in the first place. By learning to change and or accept these thoughts, tension is reduced and the symptoms go away and are less likely to return.
Cognitive therapy has identified more than a dozen types of common but unhealthy patterns of thinking, including all or nothing, exaggeration, magnification, etc. By examining, challenging and changing these thought patterns, you can change how your body responds to a situation or event.
Cognitive therapy for headaches usually combines behavioral methods such as various relaxation methods that clients are taught to reduce the level of tension in their own bodies. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation training and guided imagery are examples of some of these techniques. My guidebook, “Managing Your Stress” (available on the products page of www.cognitivetherapy.cc) provides detailed instruction on several of these methods.
Those who invest the time and effort in learning and applying these methods feel empowered at having increased control over their mind and body. Cognitive therapy for headaches is not a quick fix, but if you are motivated to take better care of your physical and mental health, a series of 12-20 sessions will provide you with the education and tools you need to free yourself from excess stress and worry. Regular practice of these methods into your daily routine is the key to eliminating migraines and many other stress related conditions.