Not tonight, I have a headache?

Headache. 2006 Jun;46(6):983-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.00470.x.


Objective: The present study examined the relationship between the diagnosis of migraine and self-reported sexual desire.

Background: There is evidence for a complex relationship between sexual activity and headache, particularly migraine. The current headache diagnostic criteria even distinguish between several types of primary headaches associated with sexual activity.

Methods: Members of the community or students at the Illinois Institute of Technology (N = 68) were administered the Brief Headache Diagnostic Interview and the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI). Based on the revised diagnostic criteria established by the International Headache Society (ICHD-II), participants were placed in 1 of the 2 headache diagnostic groups: migraine (n = 23) or tension-type (n = 36).

Results: Migraine subjects reported higher SDI scores, and rated their own perceived level of desire higher than those suffering from tension-type headache. The presence of the symptom "headache aggravated by routine physical activity" significantly predicted an elevated SDI score.

Conclusions: Migraine headaches and sexual desire both appear to be at least partially modulated by serotonin (5-HT). The metabolism of 5-HT has been shown to covary with the onset of a migraine attack, and migraineurs appear to have chronically low systemic 5-HT. As sexual desire also has been linked to serotonin levels, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that migraine and sexual desire both may be modulated by similar serotonergic phenomena.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexuality / physiology*
  • Tension-Type Headache / physiopathology


  • Serotonin