Traumatic Events in Teens Increase Headaches and Migraines

As indicated by a new research in Norway, teenagers exposed to traumatic or terror events may have a greater risk for daily and weekly migraines, adolescents who survived a terror attack. The discoveries further the idea and violence and psychological injury could lead to physical symptoms.

“We have very little systematic knowledge about the physical consequences of terror and violent events, especially since individuals may not see the association or go to the physician,” said study author Dr. Synne Stensland of the Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Oslo.

“There are individuals who are not getting the help they require for their physical and mental complaints, especially when they become more severe or frequent”. On July 22, 2011, a single gunman opened fire on the yearly Norwegian Labor Party youth summer camp.

The man, disguised as a policeman, murdered 69 individuals and severely injured 33. Many of the 358 survivors saw what happened and risked hypothermia and drowning trying to get away. The survivors have been a part of several studies to understand how terror and trauma affect adolescents.

In this research, published in the journal Neurology, Stensland and associates looked at recurrent migraines and pressure type headaches in 213 of the survivors, ages 13 to 20. Trained personnel interviewed the survivors around four months after the attack again a year and a half a while later, and again three years after the attack.

The study group found the terror attack survivors reported many recurring tension-type headaches and migraines, and headaches were generally more common in girls. Specifically, in the general community in Norway, the female survivors reported three times more weekly or daily headaches than similar young women.

Posttraumatic psychological pain levels were significantly higher, as well. “We were surprised the connection was so strong amongst terror and headaches, despite the fact that we represented (many other components),” Stensland said.

Future examinations will keep on observing the physical and psychological symptoms that these teens experience.

“Incidents of terror are unfortunately commonplace around the world, and in spite of the fact that the physical impacts are very much covered, the invisible scars of psychological trauma get significantly less consideration,” said Dr. Gretchen Tietjen, director of The Headache Treatment and Research Program at the University of Toledo, Ohio, who wasn’t involved with this study.

“During periods of development psychological trauma affects the brain in ways that not only alter the psyche, but also the endocrine, immune, metabolic and nervous systems”.

“These changes lead to increased susceptibility to a wide variety of adult diseases that may even be passed on to the next generation.”

These associations extend beyond terror events to childhood maltreatment, emotional abuse, and sexual brutality, Stensland included. Abuse in peer relationships or social networking bullying can have a similar impact. “They’re keeping a secret and don’t need others to recognize what happened,” she said.

“It’s important for individuals to know that an increase in headaches could demonstrate something has happened, and it’s time to talk.”

Stensland would also like to see research on medication and overuse of painkillers. Teens might have the ability to treat their headaches with an over-the-counter prescription, however that doesn’t treat the underlying issues related to the awful mishap, she noted.

“Teens medicate themselves, and few go to the doctor, but if you keep medicating like that, it might really add to the chronic behavior,” she said.

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