Migraines and PTSD, Connection?


As a migraine suffer for as long as I can remember, once even leaving me bedridden for months. I have kept all the food diaries and had more head scans than I can number. Never finding the answer to why I have migraines. Some environmental triggers, but those are truly minute compared to the four or more migraines I have a week.

Night before last, while talking to Jethro, I asked if he thought my migraines could possibly be the pain from my mind fighting so hard to hide these memories. We both thought it was an interesting idea but did not know.

I read an article today from Practical Neurology from December 2011. Here is what it says:

Migraine researcher Dr. Gretchen E. Tietjen, Director of University of Toledo Medical Center‘s Headache Treatment and Research Program in Ohio, USA, spoke about the connection between abuse and migraine this past summer at the American Headache Society Annual Meeting. She was talking about the unusual number of migraine patients who were abused at a young age.

So could it be that psychological problems from past abuse are somehow contributing to migraine? Dr. Tietjen thinks it may be something more biological…This seems to be more than a psychological reaction to maltreatment. We are examining the idea that early abuse—no matter what kind—creates permanent changes in the neurobiological system of abused persons that may make them more prone to migraine pain. Many patients seem relieved when we ask them about abuse, but we need much more research to tell us if such information can really influence how we treat them.

Recent medical breakthroughs have brought home the point that environment and life choices can actually have permanent implications – and even cause changes that can be passed down to future generations.

Though the genetic basis for migraine is increasingly well researched, that doesn’t mean that factors such as abuse can’t pave the way for future migraine attacks.

A couple of things are important to note here:

No one is saying that all migraineurs were abused as children. We hope that most weren’t. The point is that, for some reason, it looks like there may be a higher prevalence of abuse among migraineurs. More research needs to be done to confirm this.

At this point, discovering a connection between abuse and migraine doesn’t really impact migraine treatment. Of course there may be past issues that need to be dealt with, and that can improve overall quality of life. But there’s no special treatment for a migraineur who was mistreated as a child. It will be interesting to see where this research goes. It may provide further insight into why so many suffer from migraine disease.

In response to the article Dr. Michael Zitney stated, “When exposed to early abuse, the child’s adrenergic system (“fight-or-flight” response) is engaged more then usual, leaving the serotonin, dopamine, endorphin system underdeveloped.”

I am not a doctor, I will never have an MD after my name, but maybe this answers why I have migraines and why nothing seems to help them, even my hysterectomy. I really do hope they continue with this research.

I also hope as I continue my work of healing and understanding, maybe (fingers and toes crossed), my migraines will improve.


About Hope

I am forty year old survivor and a five year old victim of sexual abuse. I live with severe depression and anxiety, and in 2013 was diagnosed with DID and PTSD. My journey is to reintegrate my alter and the adult me into a whole person, healthy person, and one that can empathize with others.

4 thoughts on “Migraines and PTSD, Connection?

  1. Thank you so much for your article. Its comforting to know we are not alone.

    I am a grateful survivor, whose migraines vanished when I recovered repressed memories. The PTSD aftermath still creeps in when memories are triggered. The good news is that I can recognize why something is triggering me and use my recovery tools sooner. I am no longer a victim. Since the big break through day my head has felt amazingly light, no more piercing pressure in my temples.. My doctor said that I would “never look at the world the same again.” What a gift I was given!

    I am praying for you to find relief from your debilitating migraines. Cheers to your gift!.


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