Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology



First Advisor

Todd A. Smitherman

Second Advisor

Jeffry S. Bethay

Third Advisor

Kelly G. Wilson

Relational Format



Migraine is a neurologic disorder that causes impairment in many areas of functioning. Migraine sufferers frequently avoid environmental stimuli (triggers) they assume to be associated with migraine onset, which may inadvertently lead to an increase in the potency of some triggers and increase headache frequency over time. Headache patients who instead use acceptance strategies to limit their attempts to control or eliminate/avoid their pain may experience reduced distress and pain-related disability. Studies examining acceptance-based approaches in managing chronic pain conditions have shown favorable results of acceptance on pain intensity, reduced pain-related anxiety and avoidance, and less physical and psychological disability. However, few studies have examined the construct of acceptance among individuals with headache. In order to extend previous research on chronic pain conditions, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between psychological acceptance and headache-related variables among young adults, a population at increased risk for headache but typically without complications posed by long headache histories and medication overuse. The sample consisted of 2,005 individuals (65% female; mean age = 19.10 years [SD = 2.27]): 839 without headache (42%), 602 with migraine (30%), and 564 with tension-type headache (28%). Acceptance scores distinguished among headache diagnostic groups such that those with lower acceptance were those with more frequent and severe headache disorders. Acceptance explained 10% of the variance (p < 0.001) in headache-related disability and 5% of the variance in both headache severity (p < 0.001), and headache frequency (p < 0.001). These proportions were much smaller but statistically significant after controlling for gender and comorbid psychiatric symptoms. Although negative associations between acceptance and the headache variables was observed, these were rather modest and indicate that the role of acceptance in headache may be different than originally hypothesized. Limitations and future directions are discussed.


Emphasis: Clinical Psychology

Included in

Psychology Commons



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