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What are the symptoms of migraine headaches?

Migraine headaches can begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. When left untreated, duration of migraines is generally four to 72 hours. The frequency with which migraines occur varies from person to person, occurring several times a month or less often. Symptoms typically experienced during a migraine include unilateral or bilateral head pain, pain that has a throbbing characteristic, sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes odors, nausea and vomiting. Following a migraine, it is typical to feel drained and tired.

How common are migraine headaches?1

The prevalence of migraine headaches is high, affecting roughly 1 out of every 7 American adults, annually. Additionally, prevalence of migraine is highest in females aged 18-44 years.

What is CBT for migraine headaches like?

For all disorders, the CBT therapist starts by educating clients about their diagnosis and about CBT, helps clients set goals, and teaches clients essential thinking and behavioral skills. When working with clients who suffer from migraine headaches, the CBT therapist focuses on identifying and modifying the client’s thoughts associated with anticipation of a headache which can cause anxiety between episodes. Other CBT interventions include a variety of techniques such as relaxation and stress management which aim to bring about changes in emotions, thoughts and behaviors, which are useful for the development of coping strategies and life style changes (e.g. diet, sleep). As depression may be more common in individuals suffering from migraine headaches, the CBT therapist also addresses maladaptive cognitions that may be maintaining depressed mood.

1Buse, D. C., Manack, A. N., Fanning, K. M., Serrano, D., Reed, M. L., Turkel, C. C., & Lipton, R. B. (2012). Chronic migraine prevalence, disability, and sociodemographic factors: results from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain52(10), 1456-1470. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02223.x