Abuse during childhood has a significant association with migraine and maladaptive personality traits in adulthood, according to a retrospective analysis published in Headache.

Investigators of this retrospective study evaluated cross-sectional data of adult patients included in the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (n=13,493). All patients in this survey were questioned on emotional, physical, and sexual childhood abuse; current depression; stress levels; and whether or not they have a migraine diagnosis.

After linear regression analysis and adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, the investigators found mistreatment during childhood was associated with an increased risk for neuroticism (P <.001). 

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The presence of neuroticism was associated with migraine diagnosis (odds ratio, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.04-1.10), even after controlling for current depression, stress, and childhood abuse.

In addition, neuroticism was found to be a mediator between migraine diagnosis and childhood abuse. The researchers, however, found that this mediation effect was not significant for “openness to experiences.”

A structural equation model also established a mediation between childhood abuse and migraine via neurotic personality (goodness of fit indices: comparative fit index, 0.992; Tucker Lewis index, 0.979; root mean square error of approximation, 0.025). There was an indirect (P <.01) and direct (P <.01) association between childhood abuse and migraine.

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Unconfirmed measures for the identification of neuroticism were used in the analyzed study, which presents a potential limitation. In addition, the survey design and self-reported data further reduces the power of the findings.

In addition to the observed findings, the investigators suggest future research should examine “the pathophysiological, genetic, and epigenetic underpinnings” of neuroticism’s mediation effect between migraine and abuse.


Karmakar M, Elhai JD, Amialchuk AA, Tietjen GE. Do personality traits mediate the relationship between childhood abuse and migraine? An exploration of the relationships in young adults using the add health dataset [published online October 13, 2017]. Headache. doi: 10.1111/head.13206