PTSD More Common Among Migraine Sufferers

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

We've known for some time now that Migraine disease and major depressive disorder (MDD) tend to be comorbid conditions. That means that we frequently see people who have both simultaneously, but neither condition causes the other. Now, research is showing a similar connection to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The objective of a new study by Peterlin et. al. was:

"To evaluate the relative frequency of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in episodic migraine (EM) and chronic daily headache (CDH) sufferers and the impact on headache-related disability."1

Background information:

The prevalence of PTSD in the general population is estimated to be 8%. Two earlier studies have looked at PTSD in patients with headache disorders. One study seemed to show that Migraine and headache patients have a higher risk of developing PTSD than those without the disorders. Unfortunately, Migraineurs and tension-type headache patients were studied together in one group and compared to patients with pain unrelated to headache disorders. Thus, it was impossible to draw information specific to Migraine from the study. A second study might have shown PTSD as a risk factor for Migraine advancing from episodic to chronic. However it was a very small study group, and assessment of depression was self-reported by the patients and not clinically verified.

Study methods:

  • The study was conducted with patients from six Migraine and headache treatment centers.
  • All study participants were examined by a Migraine and headache specialist.
  • Patients were recruited in the age group of 18 to 65.
  • Headache disorder diagnoses were classified in accordance with the International Headache Society's International Classification of Headache Disorders, Second Edition (ICHD-II).

Study results:

  • Analysis included 593 patients who fulfilled the criteria for episodic Migraine (EM) or chronic daily headache (CDH).
  • PTSD was diagnosed in 30.3% of the participants with CDH.
  • PTSD was diagnosed in 22.4% of the participants with Migraine.
  • Participants with both major depressive disorder and PTSD were more likely to have CDH (24.6% of participants) than EM (15.79%).
  • Disability was greater in participants with EM and PTSD.
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