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Cephalalgia. 2008 Dec;28(12):1305-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2008.01680.x. Epub 2008 Sep 2.

Direct diagnosis and management of emotional factors in chronic headache patients.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada. allan.abbass@dal.ca


Somatization, anxiety, depression and personality disorders are common features of many patients with chronic headaches. Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a brief therapy method developed specifically to treat patients with this cluster of somatic problems, symptoms and maladaptive behaviours through focusing on how the patient handles emotional experiences. It also contains a direct method of assessing the somatic discharge pathways of both emotions and anxiety, thus allowing direct observation of somatization in the case of many chronic headache sufferers. In this review, we summarize the extant literature on emotional factors in headache, review the evidence for short-term dynamic therapies in somatic problems and describe the assessment and treatment method of ISTDP we use routinely with chronic headache sufferers.

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