Did you know that a history of abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – is common in women who have headaches. A history abuse is also associated with depression and stress. So reports a new study by Gretchen Tietjen, a Professor of Neurology at the University of Toledo and Director of their Headache Treatment and Research Program.
Emotional abuse was the most common in women who had migraines: 42% of women reported this. 37% reported a history of physical or sexual abuse. All of these types of abuse increase the risk of depression, as well as stress related to abuse or fear of abuse.
How did this affect their headaches?
Women who were being abused currently and who had a history of childhood abuse, had:
- more headache-related disability
- more severe and more frequently headaches
- a higher likelihood of depression
- more current symptoms of stress
- more physical complaints
One of the most interesting aspects that Dr. Tietjen is now looking at is if the connection between abuse and headaches is only psychological – “just” because of worries and stress – or if abuse causes “psycho-neuro-biological” changes. That is, does abuse cause physical changes that predispose women to headaches.
- All neurologists should screen patients with headaches for abuse.
- Patients with severe, chronic headaches, especially when the headaches don’t respond to treatment, should be asked specifically about all 3 types of abuse – in their history, as well as currently.
- Refer patients who report abuse for counseling.
This is an important study, with good recommendations. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
(This study was presented at the 49th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society.)