A recent study published in the medical journal Neurology found that exposure to terror attacks increased the risk of frequent migraines and tension-type headaches in the adolescent survivors. The study interviewed hundreds of survivors from Norway’s largest mass killing.
In 2011, a gunman opened fire on a youth camp killing 69 and wounded 33. There were hundreds of survivors, and all experienced terror and many lost friends. Some even risked drowning as they tried to escape the island where the summer camp was located.
219 teen survivors of the attack participated in the study. They were interviewed about their headaches and the frequency of the headaches. These interview results were compared to the interview responses of another group of young individuals who had not experienced a terror attack.
The results of the study found that compared to teens who had not experienced terror, the terror attack survivors were 4 times more likely to have migraines and 3 times more likely to have tension-type headaches. Also, 73% of the female survivors had recurring headaches, whereas only 37% of females not exposed to terror had these types of headaches. 41% of the male survivors also had recurring headaches, and only 19% with no terror exposure had them.
What this means for health care and pain management practices
While it was known that severely traumatic events can cause psychological problems, this study shows that such terrible events can also cause physical effects, like headaches and migraines. Early intervention and treatment is crucial to properly addressing a survivor’s pain and preventing the development of chronic medical conditions.