I have recently seen an increase in the number of children/adolescents in my clinic, this is common at this time of year for many reasons (see ‘sizzling summer’ article below), but exam stress is also a common contributing factor.
Coincidentally a few months ago there was a study published in the Journal of the American medical Association stated that undergoing CBT* (cognitive behavioural therapy)-in addition to taking the medication amitriptyline-can help children and teenagers with chronic migraine.
In brief, the US study involved 135 children and teenagers. All of who were considered to be chronic migraineurs (experiencing severe migraines between 21 and 28 days per month). After undergoing CBT participants experienced on average an 11.5 day reduction in the number of days in the month that they suffered migraine, compared to those on medication alone.
The researchers concluded that CBT should be routinely offered to younger people as a first-line treatment along with medications.
The above findings are hardly surprising, as it has been known anecdotally for a long time that stress/emotional problems increase the likelihood of migraine in a significant number of people who are already predisposed to migraine.
Indeed, research evidence is mounting that migraines may well ‘start’ as a neurological disturbance/excitability in the deep parts the brain that are also involved with emotion.
Therefore it is likely that any approach that helps reduce the excitability of this part of the brain has the potential to reduce the frequency of migraines. Whether this be relaxation exercises, neuromodulation(to be discussed in a later article), talk therapies/counselling (including CBT & other psychological interventions) or if absolutely necessary- medication (personally I like to avoid this if possible).
This is why it is helpful to have a fully qualified clinical psychologist at my clinic, trained in CBT, just in case this approach should be considered necessary/useful.
*CBT is a well researched(evidence-based) psychological approach which addresses peoples emotional responses, behaviours and thought processes that are unhelpful/ maladaptive by helping them to ‘think’ differently.