Suffering from migraines can turn a sufferer’s life into real torture. It’s claimed that this condition runs in families and is associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression. However, the relationship between personality and migraine is much less well known.
Nevertheless, the question has aroused interest for more than 80 years. Wolff was one of the pioneers in this investigation and, after years of study, important associations have now been found between certain personality traits and the suffering of migraine.
Migraine is usually a throbbing type of headache, of moderate to high intensity. Nevertheless, it’s much more than a simple pain. In fact, migraine is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea or vomiting. In addition, it causes fatigue and a great sensitivity to light and sound.
The migraine sufferer can be totally incapacitated when faced with an attack. They often experience an overwhelming need to isolate themselves in a silent and dark environment to cope with the pain. Often, a migraine is preceded by an aura. This consists of the appearance of alterations in sight, and difficulty in speaking or moving.
Depending on whether the disorder is episodic or chronic, the symptoms may occur more or less frequently. However, despite having detected some triggers, the exact causes of migraine remain unknown.
Personality and migraine
A personality trait is a specific and stable pattern of perceiving, interpreting, and reacting to events. Through research, a relationship between personality and migraine has been established. It’s a kind of migraine profile, which includes features common to those who suffer from this condition. Some of the most prominent characteristics are the following:
Perfectionism and hyper-responsibility
One of the most outstanding qualities of the migraine sufferer is their perfectionism. Indeed, they tend to be excessively demanding both with themselves and others. They’re people who seek and demand excellence and find it difficult to be flexible and make compromises. They need to conform to certain standards, are extremely responsible, and seek excellence.
Need for control
People who don’t tolerate uncertainty well fall into this category. They need to know exactly what’s going to be done, how, and at what time. Rigidly adhering to a plan gives them a sense of control, which turns into anxiety when, in reality, there’s no plan or it goes awry.
Dichotomy and sense of justice
There’s a marked tendency in migraine sufferers to see the world in black and white. They’re radical in their judgments when assessing whether something is good or bad, fair or unfair. There are no shades of gray or intermediate points and they’re inflexible when it comes to interpreting situations.
Low tolerance for frustration and criticism
Migraine sufferers seem to be more sensitive to failure and criticism. They have problems dealing with negative experiences and tend to be affected by the comments of others. Furthermore, when something that happens falls short of their expectations, they perceive it as a personal failure rather than a learning opportunity.
Perhaps due to low self-esteem, they have more difficulty managing frustration and emotions. Thus, they present a tendency to somatize emotional suffering, since they’re so mentally driven. For this reason, it’s common for migraine episodes to be triggered in stressful situations when the sufferer feels overwhelmed.
Is there a relationship between personality and migraine?
The traits associated with migraine belong to Cluster C personality disorders. This classification designates people with anxious, dependent, and obsessive tendencies. However, this connection has been questioned and remains subject to controversy.
The relationship between personality and migraine can’t be determined exactly. Nonetheless, a greater presence of these traits has been found in migraine sufferers than in control groups. Therefore, it may be useful to address these rigid tendencies in patients and encourage them to relax their perceptions.
With cognitive-behavioral therapy, migraine sufferers have been helped to modify their thought patterns, manage their anxiety, and develop more appropriate coping styles. With this kind of therapy, important achievements have been obtained in the management and control of migraines.
In conclusion, it certainly seems that addressing the psychology of the migraine sufferer is quite important and it may well offer a hopeful future.
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