Contributing to the success of most headache clinks is the growing recognition mat stress is the underlying cause of the majority of headaches. This is hardly surprising since medical science now recognizes that virtually every disorder is stress-related, at least to some extent. Unresolved emotional stress is generally considered to be the underlying cause of at least 80 percent of headaches, with the remainder being due to a variety of other forms of stress, ranging
from the physical stress of noise or flickering lights, to the biological stress of low blood sugar.
Lack of funding, and difficulty in correlating stress to headaches in a laboratory setting, account for the paucity of documented evidence supporting the stress origin of headaches in medical journals. Compared to the $250 million awarded to research diabetes in 1989, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke allotted a mere $1.4 million for headache research. Nonetheless, among headache specialists themselves, there is wide clinical acceptance of stress as the underlying cause of most headaches.
For example, U.S. News (July 31, 1989, page 4) begins its major coverage report on headaches by saying, «Stress has long been considered the principal cause of all headaches». And Arnold Fox, M.D. and Barry Fox, Ph.D., authors of The Beverly Hills Diet, recently advised in Let’s Live Magazine (September 1989, page 59) that we should »start attacking the number one cause of headaches: stress».
Migraines are no exception. Discussing migraine trigger mechanisms, the Migraine Foundation of Toronto, Canada, states in its literature, »Migraine is triggered by precipitating or provoking factors—elements of stress, whether physical, emotional or situational that, given the predisposition, set off the actual headache process». The same literature notes that stress can consist of worry, anxiety, tension, emotional change, excitement, shock, repressed hostility, anger or depression, all arising from life situations.
Again, Dr. Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic and National Migraine Foundation, Chicago, stated recently that, «Our modem world is rampant with tension, frustration, anxiety, depression and repressed hostility, all of which can trigger headache pain. A multitude of chronic, recurring headaches are precipitated by stress». And in his headache classic, Headaches, The Drugless Way to Lasting Relief (Celestial Arts, 1987), Harry C. Ehrmantraut, Ph.D. states, «As a general rale, it is safe to say that a tension headache is precipitated by tension in the immediate life situation. This may arise from anger, aggravation, frustration, guilt or related emotional states.»
Several authorities believe that marital stress is one of the most common causes of headaches. To confirm this, Rajan Roy, Ph.D., associate professor of social work and psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, studied 15 married couples. In each marriage, one partner suffered from recurrent tension or migraine headaches and all were experiencing marital stress. After a series of counseling sessions designed to reduce marital stress, 11 of the headache sufferers reported that their headaches were vastly improved.
Certainly, headaches can be provoked by drugs, illness, alcohol or other causes. But the prevailing opinion of most headache specialists is that the majority of headaches are provoked by negative emotions arising out of conflicts concerning job, money, marriage or similar life situations.