Coping, Treatment

Claiming Responsibility

Medicine’s inability to pinpoint the cause of headaches is, of course, frustrating. What if you stopped looking for a cause? Could you still get better?

A psychologist contends that finding the physiological source of pain is irrelevant. More important, he says, is that patients “understand that they must claim responsibility for their pain and learn how to live with it, no matter what physiological condition has caused it.

He continues, “It’s not the pain that’s critical and it’s not the generator of the pain. It’s the person’s pain perception. . . . The psychology of a person with pain is even more important than cause of pain.”

Sounds like something that would get my hackles up, right? Except that it didn’t.

Here’s my take on it. Claiming responsibility for pain doesn’t mean that you’re to blame or that it’s all in your head. It’s more like accepting that pain is a part of your life, no matter if you know what causes it or not. You can choose to fight against it or you can acknowledge it and learn to lessen its impact on your life.

Of course investigating the source is necessary — headaches are usually benign, but can also be indicators of a life-threatening problem. Classifying headaches as cluster or tension-type or migraine (or any of the many other diagnoses) is important too, since they have different treatments. But once you have a diagnosis, do you really need to know the cause?

I want to know what you think. Is finding a cause for your headaches important to you? Is “claiming responsibility” just a euphemism for “think positive“?

5 thoughts on “Claiming Responsibility”

  1. “Until we know for sure migraine (disease) isn’t genetic”???

    (I put the “disease” in parentheses because I HATE that. Personal peeve. I have migraines. I do not have a disease. I have altered physiology.)

    Well…I would phrase this in the opposite, actually–more like, until we know for sure it IS genetic, which is highly likely.

    I do like the distinction made between finding the cause of headaches and understanding the mechanisms. I think that is important. From a scientific perspective, I think that chasing down the mechanisms and understanding the pathophysiology of migraine will ultimately lead us to the cause (or causes) of the disorder (or group of disorders).

    In the end, I am not certain it serves any purpose to know what causes each and every attack.

    “Owning” your pain can actually give you power–it is yours, and not something that just happens to you willy-nilly. And you still have choices over what you will then do about it. It doesn’t make you at fault. Knowledge is good; power is good. Guilt–not good.

    Great points. Thanks!

  2. Finding a cause is important. I think everybody has the right/need to know WHY they’re “broken”. It’s what makes us human. As far as claiming responsibility – do people claim responsibility for Type I diabetes? Osteoporosis? Breast Cancer? Until we know for sure migraine DISEASE isn’t a) genetic and/or b) curable there’s nothing for us to be claiming responsibility for!!! All we can do is continue to look for the best care we can find and continue living the best lives we can. Otherwise, we drive ourselves crazy with guilt – not to mention our loved ones.

  3. I don’t think claiming responsibility is the same as thinking positive. In fact, I would akin the former to dealing with things as they are and the latter to wishful aspirations.

    Finding a cause for my headaches wasn’t as important to me as undertanding the mechanisms involved. That is, it’s enough for me to know that “my head is broken” as to -why- I get headaches, but it was really important for me to know -how- the neurology and neurochemistry worked together to cause what I experience during my headaches.

  4. Finding a cause for my headaches is important to me. I don’t have an opinion on the second quesiton you posed.

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