Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology



First Advisor

Todd A. Smitherman

Second Advisor

Mary C. Deason

Third Advisor

Michael Allen

Relational Format



Headache is one of the most commedical complaints reported by individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, but conflicting data exist regarding their prevalence, prototypical characteristics, and relationship to HIV severity. A well-established field of research indicates a strong association between psychiatric comorbidities/psychological factors and headache disorders, but this association has not been explored frequently among HIV patients with headaches. Data on headache symptoms and psychological factors were collected on 200 HIV/AIDS patients from two outpatient clinics using structured interviews and self-report measures. Of these, 107 patients (53.5%) endorsed problematic headaches, most of which (n = 103; 51.5%) were consistent with characteristics of primary headache disorders. Among those who met criteria for primary headaches, 88 (85.44%) met criteria for migraine, while 15 (14.56%) met criteria for tension-type headache. Severity of HIV (as indicated by CD4 cell counts), but not duration of HIV, was strongly predictive of headache severity, frequency, and disability. Those with headache endorsed higher levels of comorbid depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as higher levels of pain catastrophizing, anxiety sensitivity, and fear of pain than did those without headache. These group differences were not attributable to differences in HIV duration, number of prescribed antiretroviral medications, or demographic differences such as age, gender, or race. The results indicate the presence of two distinct groups of individuals: one that is relatively healthy, both physically and emotionally without the presence of headaches or psychological dysfunction, and one that is relatively unhealthy with frequent disabling headaches and comorbid psychological dysfunction. Implications for treatment and future research are discussed.


Emphasis: Clinical Psychology

Included in

Psychology Commons



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