CBT for MAV?

Has anyone tried cognitive behaviour therapy to treat mav? Both neurologists i saw recommended it to me, but after researching it, I really don’t think it’s much help unless your migraines are triggered by stress.

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I found it comforting but no cure. Agree it will help more if you are particularly anxious and this is exacerbating your condition.

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Tried it twice. Once under the assumption that my MAV was actually anxiety. Second time under the assumption that I had PPPD. It didn’t do anything for my symptoms either time, and I often felt as if they didn’t take me seriously when I told them that I WAS pushing my limits as much as I could (within reason).

My psychologists believed thay if I gradually pushed myself more each day, then my brain would “adapt”. I dilligently followed their plans to the letter and suffered some pretty bad symptoms in response until I eventually gave up on that concept.

That being said, if you are finding it hard to cope emotionally, and no one could possibly blame you for that, then you may find some use in it. I certainly don’t want to scare you off something that could help you, I just wanted to share my experience.

Best wishes,

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Years ago I’d printed off an on online one I’d recommend if anybody’s interested. It’s still on the internet. Housebound there was no way I could get to classes. It’s useful I found because you can lie down in bed and think about anything. It passes the time quite nicely particularly a new concept. Not that it was totally new to me as I’d used it previously in employment years back. I used to lie in bed analysing it and picking holes in its theory. Still it kept me occupied at a time when I couldn’t even do adult colouring because the house lights reflected off the colours on the coloured pencils every time I opened the box. Helen

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Bit off topic but still. This was exactly what the VRT therapist thought too. All these ‘helpful’ people who quite often only have minimum theoretical knowledge. Helen

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On still further reflection I can see why it could have been suggested to people in our situation. It’s all too easy to get into a very negative way of thinking and it teaches us that our thoughts are just that. They are based on our own opinions which may not actually be correct. Having experienced a string of bad luck/experiences one tends to get to think the next experience is going to be bad too so we set out expecting the worst. Often it can be a better idea to take a wider view - the ‘helicopter’ view CBT calls it - so you might just find if you could make a study of CBT at your own pace and look on it as an exploration of a new way of thinking/concept rather than relating it too directly to MAV and stress, it may prove helpful. It’s not going to cure MAV but it’s not likely to make you feel any worse either. Helen


Thanks for the feedback everyone. I know i definitely need to stop being so pessimistic and stop reacting so negatively but i think i can try to alter that on my own. Like you said, Helen, it’s too difficult to actually get to the classes. I feel too unwell.

I spoke to the counselling service on the phone but they didn’t really fill me with confidence that they knew how to target cbt directly at coping with a chronic illness, it was all just about general anxiety and depression. They gave me a questionnaire to fill in that asked things like:

Do you feel like a burden or a failure?
Do you feel lile you can’t cope?
Do you feel no interest in anything?

I had to score myself on severity and how often i felt those things, and the higher the score the more you needed help. Out of a total of 50 i scored 6. I decided it wasn’t worth stressing myself actually travelling to the sessions.

I googled cbt and migraine and read that basically they help you manage your triggers by teaching you not to overdo things, help you manage stress with meditation and change negative thoughts into positive ones (if you think the pain will never end, change your thoughts because you know it will end in a day or two - well already that doesn’t apply to anyone in constant migraine). I read a blog by someone who had cbt for migraine and she drew pictures of how she felt every session and it seemed so patronising.

Obviously i have never had it so don’t know first hand what they actually do but the waiting time was between 6 and 12 months and considering that i don’t feel well enough to actually attend, i decided not to go ahead with it.

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I did it for close to 4 years. Didn’t help the dizziness but it definitely did help to deal with the life adjustments, depression etc that came with it all. I liked talking to someone, not about dizziness per se but just how I was coping. I did learn meditation from it too. Overall, it really did help me x

I’m relieved that you decided not to go ahead with the cbt. As has been said by others, it may be helpful if you had anxiety or depression although, even then, I’m not a big fan of CBT. If you’re too unwell to get there, you really do not need the additional thing to do. If you got six out of fifty on the questionnaire, it certainly makes sense to try and manage yourself. There is help here and maybe there are other resources in your life already. You can always change your mind later if it seems like the thing to do.

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Thank you! I kinda felt pressired into it but wanted to make my own decisions about my own treatment. Doctors don’t appreciate how difficult it is just to travel and attend appointments. And the councellers did tell me i can self-refer anytime i like if i change my mind.

Thanks for the support.

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It’s not their problem. I did see a CBT Therapist on one occasion at local hospital. Managed that as car passenger. It’s maybe three miles each way from home and was in a converted house in grounds. Nobody waiting. Waiting room seated four or six. Easy to cope with. I filled in tons of forms then had 30 mins session and was told next if I wanted to pursue would be 12 two hours in classroom with 25+ others somewhere, not hospital, in city centre only really accessible by public transport and the therapist looked at me and said , ‘Sorry I don’t think you’d cope with it!’.

So, me being me, and remembering Einstein , I went home and looked it up on the computer. Got an insight on CBT by self study, at my own pace, no pressure using this link

That was enough CBT for me. I could see it could have its uses with open-minded people as a different way of looking at things. I couldn’t imagine it’s going to stop anxiety/depression occurring as a result of having a chronic condition. I know the best way to do that is to find some tolerable treatment and pursue it until some symptoms start to reduce and hope of improvement rises. Works every time. Helen

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Thanks for the link, i’ll check it out. I didn’t realise cbt was given in a class with others. I thought it would be one to one like individual councelling. How can they target it at your specific needs?
This is why it didn’t convince me - the charity that provide cbt in my area are totally set up to deal with general anxiety, depression and stress. No mention of specific disorders. And they got some really bad reviews online too. I feel that if i can physically minimise my symptoms and get more of my life back, i will thus feel better mentally. Feeling better mentally does not reduce my symptoms.

Mine was one on one but then I had corporate insurance (at the time!)

It may be worth seeing a counselor about if you are really struggling with anxiety/depression. But technically you don’t need a counselor to learn CBT - just pick up “Feeling Good” by David Burns or any number of books on the subject. Just like anything else it takes real practice over months to work.

I’ve found it helpful to deal with feelings of hopelessness. Thoughts like “I will never get better” (fortune telling distortion) can be combated with evidence showing that most people with MAV do get better over time if they continue to pursue treatment options and don’t give up. Basically you write down your thoughts, find distortions in those thoughts, and then you write reasoned responses to those distorted thoughts.


This book, Erik?:

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“feeling good”
More recommended books here

Yep, thanks for linking that. I think that guy is one of the original CBT inventors. He has a really good Ted talk on CBT

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Oh, my sole experience with CBT was NHS. It’s generally based more towards anxiety/depression/low mood but it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to adapt it yourself to your own situation. Besides it’s a slightly different concept of looking at your reactions generally. Surely, if it made one able to change the way one thought (which personally I’d doubt) that new way would then be applied generally. I’d imagine you’d need to go privately to a clinical psychologist for specialisms. Helen

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I have that exact thought at least several times a week, driven by the fear of not wanting to have to live like this with no relief. But mood changes are some of my mav symptoms, i get awful miserable moods where i cry inconsolably for ages, or really irritable angry moods because of the chemical imbalances during migraine. These moods come and go. When they wear off i thinl “few, back to myself again”. So i try to remember those feelings are brief, and when they wear off i don’t feel so defeatist. I will take a look at that book!

Wow this is exactly me too! I get really anxious and irritable before the migraine and I get really depressed and hopeless feeling during and after the migraine. And exactly as you say, when it wears off you feel normal again. Unfortunately the normal is pretty rare, mostly back-to-back symptoms and overlapping symptoms. CBT can helps regain some control over your long term outlook, but obviously it’s not going to fix everything if the root cause is migraines. Good luck!

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Thanks, it’s reassuring to know i’m not the only one with the mood changes. The neurologists i saw did indicate its part of migraine due to chemical imbalances.