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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for migraine

Updated: Jun 15

Guest Author- Rida Farhan, MBBS

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a goal oriented form of therapy undertaken by a practitioner where the therapist guides the patient to explore their emotions, underlying beliefs and automatic thoughts also known as cognition and modify these to bring about a change in their behavior.

Several studies have shown CBT to be a useful tool in managing chronic pain conditions especially migraines that are not responding to medications. One such study interviewed patients with migraine after undergoing CBT and relaxation exercises and common themes found among participants were as follows:

1. Feeling of control

After implementing CBT in their daily lives, the majority of the participants reported increased levels of positivity and confidence in their ability to prevent and respond to migraines.

2. Stress management

Stress was a migraine trigger for many and CBT helped in identifying stressful situations and finding healthier ways to manage them thus preventing migraines.

3. Face to face contact time

In today's digital era, CBT can be an outlet for face to face contact time. Even though identifying links between thoughts and behavior was challenging for most, they appreciated the collaborative relationship and being able to open up about emotions and thoughts related to migraines.

4. Flexible relaxation techniques

Deep breathing techniques were seen as a useful tool to prevent an attack from coming. The most notable benefit of these relaxation techniques was the flexibility with which they could be used, whether during commute or in the workplace.

5. Improved coping strategies

CBT was also used by participants to manage anxiety which occurred with the onset of migraine leading to reduced severity of an attack.


Morgan M, Cousins S, Middleton L, Warriner-Gallyer G, Ridsdale L. Patients' experiences of a behavioural intervention for migraine headache: a qualitative study. J Headache Pain. 2015;17:16. doi: 10.1186/s10194-016-0601-5.

Chand SP, Kuckel DP, Huecker MR. Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 2023 May 23. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan.

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