What You Can Do About Your Chronic Headaches

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D 

If you have frequent splitting headaches, don't torment yourself with the feeling that you are the only one inflicted with this terrible problem. 

Ten percent of people experience at least one severe headache per week. Migraine headaches are believed to be associated with constriction and dilatation of the arteries in the head region, and tension headaches with tense muscles in the head, neck, and face region. Some headache specialists say that arteries play an important role, in migraines as well as tension headaches. 

Headache sufferers may or may not have the knowledge of what triggers their headaches. Find out what "triggers" or aggravates your headaches, so you can control your headaches. It is now a common knowledge that anxiety, anger, and depression can trigger or aggravate a headache. 

The most common immediate elements that occur prior to the onset of headache are stress and negative emotions. Get a handle on your stress and negative emotions. A flicker, glare, eye strain, fasting, alcohol, nicotine, certain foods, notably, cheese and chocolate, can also trigger headaches. 

Weather conditions, such as humidity, temperature, and weather changes too are known culprits. In women, hormonal factors, associated with menstrual cycle, are also reported to trigger headaches. It is suspected that these triggers, in various ways and at different stages, cause dilatation of arteries in and around the head region, which in turn cause head pain. 

There may be a small genetic component and as a result of that some people may be  predisposed to headaches. Perfectionist, rigid, hostile or highly driven people may be more vulnerable to headaches. If you see a relationship between your headaches and these personality characteristics, try to loosen up on them as these characteristics will be constant source of frustration, unhappiness, and tension for you. 

As headache sufferers become anxious, angry, or depressed on account of headaches, they suffer more headaches, thus forming a vicious cycle. Worries about medication, nausea, sensitivity to light, vertigo, and similar other problems during headaches, can raise fears and negative thoughts that would prolong or aggravate the headache. 

How can measly headaches wreck marriages? By uncontrolled reaction of a frustrated headache sufferer towards their partners and retaliation by partners for what they perceive unprovoked aggression towards them. Thereafter, continued marital tension itself becomes a source of future headaches. 

Chronic headaches can drastically reduce social contacts, recreation, and other pleasurable activities. As the joy of life disappears, you may feel forsaken by friends and relatives. With life becoming severely restricted, you may find yourself reflecting on your life with resignation or with anger and anxiety, causing more headaches. 

Try to change the headache-related "negative talk" inside your head to a "positive talk." Negative talk inside the head consists of such thoughts, "I am sick of having this damn headache. I can't get anything done. I can do nothing to stop it and nobody can help me. " 

Positive talk may go like this, "If I stay calm and do my relaxation, this headache may let up and I may be able to finish some of the work. " 

Do not let the headache do psychological damage to you. For example, if you have to cancel an appointment because of headache, it is okay to feel inconvenienced or, even distressed, but to feel "devastated" because, "I have absolutely lost control over my life" is not a smart thing to do. You are letting the headache do more damage to you than is warranted by the situation. Once you do that, it is no longer just a headache. It is a "monster" that has become bigger than you and is ready to swallow you up. 

Keep telling yourself and believe that you are bigger than your headache. If you suspect that food may be triggering your headache, go on a low-risk diet--fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. Do it under the direction of a professional, who may advise you to do it for five days or for the length of the interval between the two headaches. 

If the new food plan reduces headaches, then introduce one food item at a time so you can identify which specific food item is causing headaches. If fasting triggers your headaches, eat three meals or, better, divide your three meals in to six mini meals. Note that "Sunday morning headaches" are caused by missing usual breakfast . 

A common stress in the headache sufferer is brought about by rumination on the unhappy events of the past and the distress of the present. At such times, distract yourself by doing light manual work. 

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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