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Migraine and abuse

Over the last decade, there has been an increased interest in the link between physical or sexual abuse and migraines. In the February issue of the journal Headache, researchers studied a group of young women with migraine in Lima, Peru. Among these women, 47 percent had been victims of physical or sexual violence by their spouse or intimate partner, compared with 36 percent of young women without migraine. After adjusting for other potentially confounding factors, this study found that having been the victim of abuse increased your risk for having migraine by over 40 percent. If abused women also experienced symptoms of depression, they had over double the risk of having migraine.

What does this study tell us:

  • If you have or are the victim of physical or sexual abuse, you’re not alone. Nearly 2 of 5 women in this study had been abused by an intimate partner.
  • Having been abused makes it more likely that you will experience migraines.
  • Having been abused AND having problems with depression more than doubles your risk of having migraines.

Have you been the victim of abuse or wonder if what you’re going through would “count” as abuse? Check out these Internet resources to help you recognize abuse and get the help you need:

Don’t suffer in silence. Tell a friend, a relative, or your doctor about the abuse. Review the steps detailed on the Mayo Clinic web site about finding help and creating a safety plan. Abuse is serious. Abuse is dangerous. And it’s important that doctors are taking the consequences of abuse seriously.

Read more on migraine and abuse from Dr. Marcus here:
Migraine & Childhood Abuse
Follow-up On Childhood Abuse and Migraine Report

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Elizabeth Jean Mahnen
    8 years ago

    I have a coworkier who control me of brainwsah and having migraine pain this is a mystery can a person abuseing of a other cause migraine pain.

  • Diana-Lee
    8 years ago

    My big question is what all this might tell us about the relationship between stress and migraines. I’m firmly in the camp that stress does not cause migraines, but can exacerbate them. I just wonder if this kind of connection undermines that line of thinking. Very interesting.

  • Dr Marcus author
    8 years ago

    Researchers have indeed also looked at emotional abuse and migraine — just not in this most recent study. There was a terrific series of articles published in the journal Headache in 2010 by Dr. Gretchen Tietjen and colleagues that addressed this. Too much information to put into a comment, so watch for it in my next blog (which I promise will be soon so I don’t keep you waiting to long!).

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    I wonder why emotional or mental abuse wasn’t considered in this study as well? Do you know if there is any research linking this type of abuse to Migraine or other headache disorders?

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