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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Stress causing MIGRANE Headaches

06/04/2009

Question:

About 9 years ago my wife and I experienced a very stressful period. Our sons were in a car accident and with one of the sons it was really touch and go. My question has to do with my wife shutting off her tears back then to "be strong" for everyone. Still 9 years later she cannot cry. By withholding her tears the stress builds up to the point that she gets terrible migranes (which she has imitrex for) but sometimes she turns to alcohol ahead of the headache to try to remove what she calls “the pain”.

She went to therapy for about 1 year and while it helped with other issues, it hasn’t helped her to cry.

Since money it tight, I would like to know if there are things we can do on our own to help her cry again. We’ve tried sad movies and there have been a few tears but when a real-life sadness hits – no tears, just debilitating headaches.

If we have to try a therapist again, is there a psychologist specialty we should look for?

Thank you for any advice or ideas you can offer.

Answer:

It certainly sounds like your wife could be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.  I would not focus on "crying" -- I would encourage you to think about more important things about how she and your family are doing.  The VA website, the National Center for PTSD states there are four types of symptoms in PTSD: reliving the event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling keyed up.  I encourage you and your wife to read more about PTSD at the weblinks and see if you think these descriptions sound like what your wife might be experiencing.

PTSD can be treated, but it may take some time, and may include both counseling and medication.  There may also be other problems besides PTSD, such as depression or anxiety, that may need longer or more intensive therapy.

I cannot diagnose your wife over the internet, but I encourage you to read the weblinks on PTSD, and then to talk to your primary care physician as a good starting place to help with the diagnosis.  This person may also be a good resource to find a good counselor or therapist for your wife if needed.

Good Luck.

Related Resources:

National Center for PTSD
NIMH PTSD

For more information:

Go to the Anxiety and Stress Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati