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Women Health. 2012;52(5):454-71. doi: 10.1080/03630242.2012.684088.

Posttraumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence in a women's headache center.

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VA Boston Healthcare System/Women’s Health, Boston University School of Medicine, 150 S. Huntington Ave., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, USA.



Posttraumatic stress disorder has been linked to women's ill health, including headaches. Intimate partner violence, which may result in posttraumatic stress disorder, is often reported by women with headaches. Prior studies of intimate partner violence and headache have estimated lifetime but not 12-month prevalence. The researchers in this study examined the relationship between headache and posttraumatic stress disorder in a novel population, and estimated 12-month and lifetime prevalence rates of intimate partner violence.


Patients were recruited from a women's headache center (n = 92) during 2006-07 and completed the Migraine Disability Assessment measure of headache severity. Posttraumatic stress disorder was measured using a modified Breslau scale. Twelve-month and lifetime physical intimate partner violence were measured with the Partner Violence Screen and the STaT ("slapped, threatened and throw") measure. Multivariable regression determined factors independently associated with headache severity.


Among all participants, 28.3% screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder; 9.8% and 36.9% of women endorsed recent and lifetime intimate partner violence. Posttraumatic stress disorder was strongly associated with headache severity (β = 34.12, p = 0.01). Patients reporting lifetime intimate partner violence exhibited a trend of nine additional days of disability due to headache over 90 days.


Posttraumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence occur among a sizable proportion of women referred for headache. The authors' findings reaffirm that clinicians treating women with headaches must be aware of the possibility of posttraumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence in such patients.

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