A migraine is a powerful headache that often happens with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Migraines can last from four hours to three days, and sometimes longer. Migraine headaches are one of the most common neurological disorders in the world with an estimated global prevalence of one in seven people.
According to Dr K Ravishankar, The Headache and Migraine Clinic, Jaslok and Lilavati hospitals, Mumbai, migraine is a chronic, disabling neurological disorder that affects more than 150 million people in India.
Migraine headaches are sometimes preceded by warning symptoms. Triggers include hormonal changes, certain foods and drink, stress and exercise.
Migraine headaches can cause throbbing in one particular area that can vary in intensity.
Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound are also common symptoms associated with this ailment. Preventive and pain-relieving medication can help manage migraine headaches.
Triggers of migraine: A trigger is a condition that acts as a signal to start a migraine attack in a person. These triggers can be unique for each patient and patients are told to be awre and avoid them. Some of the common triggers of migraine are certain situations, foods such as aged cheeses, salty or processed foods, food additives such as sweetener aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG), and certain drinks.
Stress is a very important underlying cause for migraines. Many people with migraine or headaches deny having any stress in their life But on the contrary it has been seen that the underlying stress factors in ones life and mind precipitate many such attacks which present with the symptoms associated in migraines.
“I have repeated severe headache in half my head at least twice a month,” said a 35 year old mother of a two-year old child. She lived in a combined family with her in-laws while her husband lived in another city preparing for a competitive examination. “I love designing,”’ she said, “but I have postponed working on it till my husband settles down and has a decent job and earnings and we live independently.” She said, “I spend my time cooking and reading religious books and looking after my son. I will do all the things I enjoy and want to do afterwards. My sister in- law cooks better than I. She gets more love from my mother and father in-law because of this.But I am trying and hope to learn soon and cook better than her.” I heard her story when she had come to me for a session of counselling. Her story clearly pointed out to the underlying stress in her due to various conflicts and unrealistic irrational thoughts she harbored. She was postponing her happiness for a later date—till her husband started earning and settled down independently. Her expectations and dependency were a cause of her stress. She said she prays five times a day. “God wants me to do this and he will look after my happiness later on,” she said. “My parents have taught and told me this.” Here her belief system has to be discussed and changed. She was not finding or giving time for her self—her ‘me time’ as we call it in psychology. She was not finding time for her designing work which she wanted to do, she was not seeing TV as there was none at home and she had no time for recreation. She was comparing herself to her sister in-law who she said cooked better than her and was more close to her mother in- law. She was in low self esteem. She said her husband was more close to his family and told her to listen to them instead of his empathising with her. This clearly indicated a communication and understanding gap between the couple. She was dependent on her husband’s success for her happiness
All these factors showed the she was stressed but in denial. She had to be counselled and empowered to be able to cope with her irrational thoughts and beliefs and also to find some time for herself and do the things she most wanted to do. She should be psycho-educated to manage her stress and find her self worth and focus on being happy while doing her chores.
Stress is developed in our mind due to our irrational negative and thoughts and maladaptive behaviors while the stressors or problems lie outside. It’s a pressure cooker theory—the negativity in our mind builds up the pressure in our mind and if we do not let go of the steam like the whistle of the pressure cooker does—it causes us migraines and other psychosomatic illnesses in our body.
The need of the hour is to be aware of our inner world which consists of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We should choose happiness as our goals and learn to be happy while we solve our outer world problems.The sad part today is that we are all more concerned about fixing our outer world issues and we neglect our inner world state and remain stressed and unhappy.
It’s a vicious cycle of stress and sleep —‘a chicken came first or the egg’ story. Being stressed leads us to sleeplessness and we have sleep deprivation which makes us more stressed and unhappy. Lack of regular healthy sleep leads us to stress and vice versa.This further compounds our headaches and body problems.
We have to wake up to the fact today that medicines are not the only solution to all psychological and neurological problems. They are just snipping the leaves of the shrub which y will grow back again because the root is alive.We need to strike at the root to kill the shrub. About 80 per cent of our illness today are psychosomatic- body symptoms and problems.We need to strike at the root cause which undoubtedly is stress in these cases.
To sum up we should keep the following points in mind whenever we have a headache or a migraine. Consult a doctor for proper diagnosis medicines and investigations to rule out any co-morbid pathology. Take counselling and therapy sessions along with the medicines to learn to manage and prevent your stress levels from building up. Do not self-medicate. Maintain a good healthy life style with proper diet exercise and regular good quality sleep while also avoiding the triggers. Learn ways and means to be happy. Focus on your inner world—your self esteem self worth and resilience. Learn to cope adaptively with the problems or challenges you face in your daily life.
Headaches come to wake us, to take charge of our life. They come to remind us that all is not well with our inner world and remind us that we have the power to choose/to respond and think differently to situations and be a happy person. A happy person is a stress-free person and it is our choice to be happy or stressed. I implore the readers to exercise their choice and to wake up and prioritise yout happiness. A happy person radiates happiness and has a happy family and his performance bounces up and they live a more satisfied and meaningful life.
(The author is a neuro psychologist and CBSE designated counsellor)
Monday, 09 September 2019 | Dr Sona Kaushal Gupta | in Guest Column
Author: Sona Kaushal
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