We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma, particularly if our experiences have led us to develop such mental health issues as complex posttraumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder, are at much-increased risk of developing constant feelings of hypervigilance as adults. This is because our childhood experiences have led us to develop the core belief (on either a conscious or unconscious level) that the world is essentially an unsafe place (see ‘Shattered Assumptions’ Theory) necessitating that we are perpetually alert to impending danger (whether such danger is real or, as it is far more frequently, imagined).
Indeed, according to Mobbs, overactivity in the brain’s fear circuitry may be a fundamental feature of complex posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as other psychiatric conditions.
One such other condition is, according to Nick Potter, a pain specialist and author of the excellent book -‘ The Meaning Of Pain’ that of migraine which Potter regards as being fundamentally caused by the continuous activation of the fear response in the brain stem – leading to what he refers to as ‘physiological hypervigilance‘ – which, in turn, spreads to regions of the brain’s cortex.
Although Potter identifies numerous factors that may increase a person’s risk of suffering from physiological hypervigilance, and, thus, accordingly increase his / her risk of suffering from migraines, he also draws attention to his view that it is important to consider factors in the migraine sufferer’s childhood that may be responsible; these include: having a parent who is an alcoholic, losing a parent (through death or divorce), having emotionally distant parents, having manipulative or narcissistic parents or having rigidly religious parents (amongst other significant childhood traumas).
Given the possible relevance of an individual’s disturbed childhood to their suffering from migraines, Potter advocates the benefits of making the patient aware of this possible connection so that, if deemed necessary, more appropriate therapeutic interventions (i.e. those that address the childhood trauma) may be selected.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).