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Living with chronic headache

A personal goal and self-regulation perspective
PhD ceremony:Ms Y. (Yvette) Ciere
When:January 17, 2018
Supervisor:R. (Robbert) Sanderman
Co-supervisors:dr. A. (Annemieke) Visser, prof. dr. J. (Joke) Fleer
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG

Living with chronic headache

Approximately 3% of the population suffers from chronic headache. Frequent headache attacks as well as a lack of energy and negative mood can hinder people with chronic headache in their everyday activities and the pursuit of personal goals. In this thesis, the researchers examined how chronic headache impacts daily life and how people manage this impact. The results of this research can help tailor psychological treatment to the specific needs and preferences of people with chronic headache.

Many patients with chronic migraine suffer from negative mood and a lack of energy. Using electronic diary questionnaires, the researchers aimed to gain more insight into the relationship between these complaints and their impact on daily activities during the day. They found that pain, a lack of energy, and negative mood influence each other throughout the day and that each of these three complaints interfere with daily activities. However, the diary data also showed that pain is less strongly associated with negative emotions when people experience more positive emotions during a headache exacerbation. In addition, people who experience on average more positive emotions and who are less likely to judge negative experiences (e.g., pain) appeared to experience less negative emotions in response to pain.

The researchers also conducted a survey study on the experience of personal goals in people who visited a headache clinic. Surveys showed that people with more intense or more frequent headache experience more difficulties in pursuing personal goals and that these difficulties are associated with more negative and less positive mood. Nevertheless, interviews revealed that patients employ a broad range of strategies to stay engaged in important goals despite the impact of chronic headache. Yet, finding a good balance between pursuing personal goals and taking into account the limitations of chronic headache was experienced as a difficult and lengthy process. In many cases, important goals had to be given up before this balance was reached.