Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Does Spirituality Matter? Effects of Meditative Content and Orientation on Migraineurs

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Kenneth Pargament


Migraine headaches are associated with high depressive and anxiety symptoms (Waldie & Poulton, 2002) as well as low feelings of self-efficacy, which can negatively impact pain tolerance and positive active coping (French, et al., 2000). Previous research suggests that religion can have a positive effect on physical and mental health (Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001, for a review), and specifically, spiritual meditation may ameliorate some of these negative traits associated with migraine headaches (Wachholtz & Pargament, 2005). Spiritual meditation is one method that may help migraineurs to increase their spiritual experiences, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve their self-efficacy to improve both their quality of life. This study examined two primary questions: 1) Do different meditation types create different outcomes among migraineurs? and, 2) How does meditation orientation affect mental, physical, and spiritual health outcomes among migraineurs?Eighty-three meditation naïve, frequent migraineurs were gathered from the Bowling Green State University undergraduate community. Participants were taught Spiritual Meditation, Internally Focused Secular Meditation, Externally Focused Meditation, or Relaxation techniques. Participants independently practiced their techniques for twenty minutes a day for one month. Pre-post tests measured pain tolerance (with a cold pressor task), and headache frequency, as well as a number of mental, and spiritual health variables. Results indicated that over the course of the intervention in comparison to the other three groups, those who practiced spiritual meditation had greater decreases in the frequency of migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression, as well as greater increases in pain tolerance, headache-related self-efficacy, daily spiritual experiences, and existential well being. By providing participants with a simple method to access their spiritual resources, spiritual meditation may offer migraineurs a means to improve their spiritual, emotional, and physical health.