Childhood maltreatment and migraine (part I). Prevalence and adult revictimization: A multicenter headache clinic survey

Gretchen E. Tietjen, Jan L. Brandes, B. Lee Peterlin, Arnolda Eloff, Rima M. Dafer, Michael R. Stein, Ellen Drexler, Vincent T. Martin, Susan Hutchinson, Sheena K. Aurora, Ana Recober, Nabeel A. Herial, Christine Utley, Leah White, Sadik A. Khuder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Objectives. - To examine the prevalence of childhood maltreatment and adult revictimization in migraineurs and the association with sociodemographic factors, depression and anxiety. Background. - Population and practice-based studies have demonstrated an association of childhood abuse and headache in adults, although further details on headache diagnoses, characteristics, and comorbid conditions are lacking. There are mounting data suggesting substantial impact of early maltreatment on adult physical and mental health. Methods. - Electronic surveys were completed by patients seeking treatment in 11 headache centers across the United States and Canada. Physicians determined the primary headache diagnoses based on the International Classification of Headache Disorders-2 criteria and average monthly headache frequency. Self-reported information on demographics (including body mass index), social history, and physician-diagnosed depression and anxiety was collected. The survey also included validated screening measures for current depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and anxiety (The Beck Anxiety Inventory). History and severity of childhood (<18 years) abuse (sexual, emotional, and physical) and neglect (emotional and physical) was gathered using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. There were also queries regarding adult physical and sexual abuse, including age of occurrence. Analysis includes all persons with migraine with aura, and migraine without aura. Results. - A total of 1348 migraineurs (88% women) were included (mean age 41 years). Diagnosis of migraine with aura was recorded in 40% and chronic headache (≥15 days/month) was reported by 34%. The prevalence of childhood maltreatment types was as follows: physical abuse 21%, sexual abuse 25%, emotional abuse 38%, physical neglect 22%, and emotional neglect 38%. Nine percent reported all 3 categories of childhood abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional) and 17% reported both physical and emotional neglect. Overlap between maltreatment types ranged between 40% and 81%. Of those reporting childhood abuse, 43% reported abuse in adulthood, but infrequently (17%) over the age of 30 years. In logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographic variables, current depression was associated with physical (P =.003), sexual (P =.007), and emotional abuse (P <.001), and physical and emotional neglect (P =.001 for both). Current anxiety was also associated with all childhood abuse and neglect categories (P <.001 for all). A graded relationship was observed between the number of childhood maltreatment types and remote or current depression and anxiety. In adjusted logistic regression analysis, migraineurs reporting 3 or more categories of childhood trauma were more likely to have received diagnoses of both depression and anxiety (odds ratios [OR] = 6.91, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 3.97-12.03), or either depression or anxiety (OR = 3.66, 95% CI: 2.28-5.88) as compared with those without childhood abuse or neglect. Conclusion. - Reports of childhood maltreatment, especially emotional abuse and neglect, are prevalent in outpatients with migraine. There is extensive overlap of maltreatment types and a high rate of revictimization in adulthood. All types of childhood abuse and neglect are strongly associated with remote and current depression and anxiety, and the relationship strengthens with an increasing number of maltreatment types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Migraine
  • Revictimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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