As I am sure you are well aware, migraine is a very complicated condition. One of the most complex and unexplained areas of migraine is the way in which the condition interacts with our personality. It is a topic likely to leave you with many questions. Does my migraine condition alter my personality in any way? Is my personality somehow associated with migraine? Firstly, let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of ‘personality’…
What does it really mean to think about someone’s ‘personality’?
When we talk about personality, we are usually referring to the differences in thinking patterns, behaviour, and feelings that are specific to one individual. In other words, your personality is the set of characteristics that make you you.
When it comes to thinking about migraine and personality, researchers tackle personality by compiling a list of characteristics. This study from 2003 used the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) whereas this study from 2013 used the Salamanca test. Although slightly different, what both of these structures intend to do is to separate out certain tendencies in personalities. The MMPI, for example, has categories including ‘Hysteria’ or ‘Paranoia’, to name just a few. By scaling down the vast variety and individuality expressed by one person to the next, scientists are able to detect potential connections. This includes connections between certain personality traits and migraine.
Are migraine and personality linked in any way?
The question has no easy answer. Studies on the topic have presented a range of different conclusions. Research has revealed correlations between those with migraine and those on the bipolar spectrum. This study, meanwhile, found a correlation between neuroticism (less calm, more irritable, more prone to stress) headache duration.
And yet despite these findings, comments on the relationships between migraine and personality are far from conclusive. In fact, much research on the topic has come under criticism from migraine sufferers. Objectors point out that assuming migraine is a condition caused solely by personality – and that our personalities are easily definable and fixed – fails to see the bigger picture. Not only does this thinking produce social stigma. It also looks past the complexity of the condition and the countless other factors that contribute to migraine. At this point in time, it is simply too difficult to pin down the exact relationship between migraine and personality. Yet as scientists carry out more research and produce more valuable data, the exact causes of migraine will become clearer to us. And with clearer causes come more effective treatments.