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The Role of Anger and Depression in Recurrent Headache

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Individuals with tension-type headache report significant anger, depression, anxiety, and stressors. However, it is not clear to what extent these variables are interrelated. The objective of the present study was to explore the role of anger in headaches, and to examine its relationship to anxiety, depression, and daily life stressors. Participants were 65 young adult women who suffered from recurrent headaches. The sample was obtained in a large-scale screening of young adult women using the Headache Symptoms List to identify those with recurrent headache. Those individuals reporting headaches completed a battery of assessment measures that included the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory, the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire, and the Hassles Scale. Results revealed a significant relationship between anger suppression and depression (r = 0.40, P<.01), as well as anger expression and anxiety (r = 0.41, P<.01) for those with headache. The use of the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire allowed for the separate analysis of general distress symptoms and symptoms more specific to anxiety and depression. Results indicated that those with headache experience more general, nonspecific distress rather than symptoms indicative of anxiety and depression (P<.01). In addition, the mixed headache group scored high on both general (mean, 28.96) and specific measures of depression (mean, 65.76) and on anger suppression (mean, 20.12), suggesting that they might experience more psychological distress than those with tension-type headache. The present results indicate the need to distinguish the unique dimensions of anxiety and depression that should be assessed in the population with recurrent headache.
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Keywords: anger; anxiety; depression; headaches; mixed headache; tension-type headache

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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