Personality traits and stress sensitivity in migraine patients

Behav Med. 2003 Spring;29(1):4-13. doi: 10.1080/08964280309596169.


A review of the literature on migraine and personality yielded strong evidence for secondary neuroticism and increased sensitivity to stress in patients with migraine. This study focused on the identification of specific stressful situations and coping strategies in such patients. We conducted a psychodiagnostic study of 30 migraine patients in accordance with the criteria of the Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society and 30 healthy control subjects matched for age, sex, and social status. All participants completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and special questionnaires on stressful situations and coping strategies. The migraine patients had higher neuroticism and introversion scores on the MMPI than the healthy subjects. There was a positive correlation between the neuroticism score and headache duration (number of hours per week). The patients used coping strategies characterized by the development of physical symptoms, social isolation, and preoccupation with stress. They rated themselves as less calm, less capable of relaxing, and more irritable than did the healthy controls subjects, and they responded more often with internal tension, especially in work and other achievement situations. Questionnaires that measure constructs dealing with stress yield information that is more relevant for the treatment of migraines than do global personality tests.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • MMPI / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*