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Why Are Migraine 

Headaches Becoming

an Epidemic

by Graham Harrington

 

Have you ever found yourself rubbing your bleary eyes late in the night as you try to power through a spreadsheet or finish a zoom call? Have you been burning a hole in your Advil supply, chugging enough water to irrigate an entire field of grain just to stave off the stabbing pain in your temple and the throbbing ache behind your eyes? You’re likely not alone.

A Head Pain Pandemic

Much has already been said about the mental health costs of quarantine, but prolonged exposure to blue light screens has damaged the eyes of many, back and neck pain have been worsened by the realities of spending entire days at a desk, while headaches and migraines have steadily increased.

The increase of headaches and migraine attacks can be chalked up to a multitude of reasons. Stress over the disease itself, losing one's job because of it, or a thousand of the other anxiety lines pressed to the point of breaking by Covid can trigger headaches. People were eating less healthily and losing sleep, other worsening factors for migraine patients.

A study conducted by The Journal of Headache and Pain found that nearly half of the migraine patients they interviewed reported worse symptoms after the pandemic, while many students experiencing online learning reported a much higher frequency of migraines and headaches.

Screen Time

This is partially due to one of the most profound changes of the pandemic; the sheer increase in time spent in front of a screen. Whether for work, following the endless stream of 24-hour news, entertainment, or spending time with one’s family, many spent the majority of the pandemic staring at their phones or computers.

In order to stave off the boredom and loneliness of quarantine, people looked to the freedom and breadth of content provided by the internet. Studies by Theraspecs and The National Headache Foundation found that nearly 75% of respondents reported a serious increase in screen time, and nearly 80% sought out new forms of content. People did more on their devices, in greater variety too.

Without the internet’s connectivity it would have been nearly impossible for many to stay employed during the pandemic or see their families while separated in quarantine. Many enjoyed the freedom granted to work from home employees and I myself wouldn’t have been able to finish college without remote learning, but it has had an undeniable effect on the nation’s health and heads.

So What Should we Do?

Fortunately there are some solutions. Most obviously doctors recommend taking breaks and limiting screen time the best you can, but for those who don’t have that option, here are some tips and tricks that might help out! Doctors recommend taking special care with the lighting in your workspace, balancing out light both artificial and natural to match your screen. Darkening the room can reduce glare, a contributor to eye strain and head pain.

For students, printing your readings out instead of simply scrolling through them can help reduce screen time without making yourself unproductive, and everyone is recommended to buy a pair of blue light glasses which can reduce pain. Finally, measure the distance between the screen and where your head usually is. Doctors recommend keeping this distance at around twenty to twenty five inches.

While the pandemic seems to be slowing down, the changes it brought aren’t going anywhere. Make sure to adjust your screen time habits accordingly, so you can save yourself a both literal and figurative headache!

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Graham Harrington is a Senior at Denison University with a Creative Writing Major and Communications Minor. After winning an award in the annual Denison Pod-A-Thon podcast competition, Graham found his passion for journalistic writing and uses it to advocate for mental health awareness, body positivity, and transparency for patients and consumers. 

The Month's Featured Video

June is the month that brings attention to the importance of CPR and using the AED in heart related emergencies. Watch this video to become more familiar with these two tools to save a life.

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Why is PTSD Overlooked?
And What Can Be Done

by Michelle Powell

This month, June is National PTSD Month with June 27th as the official day for PTSD Awareness. This designated day was passed in 2010 to commemorate the birthday of Army Staff Sergeant Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard on June 27, who suffered from PTSD due to his second tour of duty in Iraq and took his life.

 

What is PTSD?

According to the American Psychological Association, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is an anxiety problem that develops in people after extremely traumatic events, like combat, crime, an accident, or natural disaster. People who experience PTSD may relive a traumatic event through memories, flashbacks, and nightmares, avoiding anything related to their trauma. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 out of every 100 people will have PTSD during their lives and about 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD.

 

PTSD is not only limited to war and combat. It may occur due to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, accidents, physical assault disaster, or witnessing a death or injury. Experiencing trauma is not rare and PTSD can happen to anyone.

 

Why is it being overlooked?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is constantly being overlooked and undetected because of confusion over various symptoms and negative connotations surrounding it. People may be turned away and deny they have it due to these reasons, preventing them from getting a diagnosis, realizing they have it, and seeking treatment. People who do not receive treatment within their first two years have lower odds of recovery from PTSD. More people must be able to learn and understand what PTSD is, look for signs in their communities, and assist them in getting the help they need.

 

People who experience PTSD are shocked when they are diagnosed with it because they could not believe it could apply to them or they felt like they did not deserve to earn it since they did not go to war. They also may delay treatment because they are avoiding trauma reminders and blocking off what had occurred.

 

Why is it still important?

Because PTSD is not limited to anyone or anything, it still occurs even today. For example, according to the American Psychological Association, the frequency of mass shootings has increased by more than a ten-fold rise from 2000 to 2015. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder. After the 2008 shootings on NIU’s campus, about 12 percent experienced PTSD. While learning about mass shootings, attackers’ motivations, and the aftermath, the development of PTSD from victims and witnesses is almost hardly discussed on news platforms or in schools. It is important to help victims feel connected to their communities and provide ongoing support for them.

 

What kinds of treatment are available?

PTSD does not have a one-way path to recovery and there’s no clear mark for it. Traditional talk therapy is one way where a patient works with their therapist to recognize and respond to their symptoms. An alternative is Prolonged Exposure, according to the NY Times, which is a cognitive intervention that involves patients describing a traumatic event in precise detail easing PTSD symptoms in 9 to 12 sessions. Experimental treatments are also being developed such as Virtual Reality Therapy which was created to replicate “reality and create a world that is both immersive and interactive” to help people overcome PTSD and other mental health issues.

 

Additionally, there is an app called PTSD Coach from the Department of Veterans Affairs, that provides information to users about the disorder and exercises to help them cope with their symptoms. E.M.D.R, eye movement desensitization, and processing encompass cognitive processing therapy, medications, and a therapeutic technique that has been effective at treating the disorder.

 

“Trauma permanently changes us. This is the big, scary truth about trauma: there is no such thing as “getting over it.” The five stages of the grief model marks universal stages in learning to accept loss, but the reality is in fact much bigger: a major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop. This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life – warts, wisdom, and all – with courage.” – Catherine Woodlwiss

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Michelle Powell is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University majoring in Human Biology with plans to become a physician or PA. She is f0cused o writing stories that raise questions about the fairness in accessing the healthcare delivery system.

June 2022 page 3