You're More Likely To Get Chronic Headaches If You Have This Personality Trait

While some people experience headaches only sporadically, those who live with chronic headaches have at least 15 headaches monthly for a stretch of three months or more (via StatPearls). Short primary headaches are those that resolve within less than four hours. If a headache extends beyond four hours, however, it's considered a long headache. Although there are numerous different kinds of headaches, chronic migraines and chronic tension headaches fall into the long-headache category. Headaches may be prompted by any number of things. Yet excess caffeine intake, sleep disorders, and obesity are considered risk factors for the progression of occasional headaches into chronic headaches.

Additionally, studies have long shown that personality type may also influence one's risk for chronic headaches. Early 1984 research published in Progress in Experimental Personality Research suggests that distress and deviant personality characteristics increase a person's susceptibility to chronic headaches. More recently, experts have taken a closer look at headache risk in connection with five specific traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness (via Psychosomatic Medicine).

Neuroticism may increase one's risk for chronic headaches

Using the Five Factor Model of Personality, researchers from the 2022 study assessed the effect of these five personality traits on a person's risk of incident headaches and concurrent headaches (multiple headaches that occur within a designated time frame). The study involved nearly 35,000 participants ranging in age from 16 to over 100 years old. Participants were followed up with over the course of 20 years.

The study findings revealed that neuroticism was strongly associated with an increased risk of both types of headaches in the long run. These individuals are often characterized by negative states of emotion, such as distress or anxiety, both of which can contribute to headaches. The researchers also noted that neuroticism tends to be linked with certain lifestyle habits that may also make one more susceptible to headaches, such as smoking, lack of exercise, and drinking alcohol. These individuals also tend to be prone to sleeping problems, which can also trigger headaches. In addition to neuroticism, introversion was also tied to a greater risk of both incident and concurrent headaches over time.

The connection between neuroticism and migraines

Of the many different types of headaches, a 2022 scientific review published in Behavioral Sciences also notes a connection between neuroticism and migraine headaches, specifically. Insecurity, nervousness, fear, and impatience are a few terms sometimes attributed to those with high levels of neuroticism, the researchers explain. While neuroticism may influence migraine risk, experts point out that the opposite may also be true. Additionally, coping ability is thought to play a role in the relationship between neuroticism and migraine headaches, too. Often jumping to worst-case scenarios, research shows that people with heightened neuroticism tend to cope less effectively with stress and physical pain, making it more difficult for these individuals to adapt to certain health conditions, such as migraines.

Oppositely, extraversion has been correlated with a decreased risk of concurrent and incident headaches (via Psychosomatic Medicine). Interestingly, those with greater degrees of conscientiousness and openness were found to be less likely to report headache symptoms. No relationship was found between headaches and agreeableness. Although personality might be one contributing factor when it comes to headaches, some experts feel that the Five Factor Model is limited in its representation of personality as it relates to human pathology.