Prior Physical and Sexual Abuse in Women with Chronic Headache: Clinical Correlates

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Abstract

SYNOPSIS

Physical and/or sexual abuse in women with chronic headache has never been addressed. This pilot study addressed differences in women with chronic headache who reported such a history, compared to a control group of women with chronic headache without a traumatic history. Thirty women were divided into two groups, based on self-report of abuse, and all women given an MMPI as part of their assessment. Sixty-six percent of women reported significant traumatic histories, with a mean of 8 years of abuse; headache pain developed after trauma in 100% of these cases. Abused women had shorter chronicity of headache but reported greater psycho-social distress and significantly more headaches. Results lend support to a model of life stress etiologically involved in the development of headache. Variables related to personality prior to headache development may be more important than the chronicity determinant. Assessment and identification of abuse early in the cycle may prevent long-term adjustment problems.

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