Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Role of Acceptance in Appraisal and Coping with Migraine Headaches

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William O'Brien


Acceptance and chronic pain is an emerging topic both for research and intervention. Initial studies have demonstrated acceptance is correlated with higher quality of daily emotional, social, and physical functioning in various chronic pain populations. The purpose of the present study was to clarify the nature of the relationship between acceptance, appraisals that are common and relevant in chronic pain populations (i.e., control and catastrophizing), and coping among migraine headache sufferers, and to determine whether the relationships conform to the same pattern observed in other chronic pain populations. Seventy four participants with migraine headaches completed self report measures assessing appraisal, coping strategies, acceptance, and pain related disability. Sixty three participants also completed a 28-day daily dairy assessing headache activity, catastrophizing, control, acceptance, and coping strategies. Hierarchical regression and multilevel modeling were used to examine the relations between these variables. Overall, results indicate acceptance is a relevant construct in the experience of migraine pain. Higher levels of pain-related acceptance were associated with lower levels of catastrophizing and pain-related interference, and increased perceived control. Participants who endorsed higher levels of pain related acceptance reported engaging in a higher level of activity overall, and indicated they use fewer coping strategies. Though many of the primary hypotheses had partial support, it is clear that a different pattern of relationships was observed between acceptance, coping, and appraisal among migraine headache sufferers. Unlike previous studies with other chronic pain populations, pain severity was significantly related to many of the constructs tested. This could have important implications in developing appropriate acceptance-based treatment with headache sufferers. This highlights the importance of replicating and extending research with new populations. Acceptance continues to show promise as a way of viewing pain that lessens the detrimental impact of certain types of thoughts (i.e., catastrophizing), and leads to increased participation in daily life.