Several studies hypothesize emotional dysregulation in subjects with migraine related to a generalized hyperexcitability both to sensory and emotional stimuli, involving the cortical-limbic system. The aim of the study was to investigate Emotional Reactivity by means of the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), in a sample of migraineurs in order to evaluate differences between the patients and a healthy reference group and the relationships with clinical evaluations: personality traits, psychopathological symptoms, empathy, affective status, coping and resilience strategy and with the severity of the headache disorder.
Twenty patients with migraine (14 females, 6 males) and fifteen healthy subjects (9 females, 6 males) matched for age and gender were recruited. Emotional Reactivity was tested using International Affective Picture System (IAPS); Clinical Global Impression evaluated behavioral disturbances. Clinical evaluation, by using the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory II, the Empathy Quotient, the brief TEMPS-M temperament questionnaire, the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory III, the Symptom Check List 90, the Brief Cope, the Resilience Scale 14 and the Migraine Disability Assessment, was performed.
The mean arousal ratings of the clinical group were significantly higher than those of the control group for unpleasant and socially unpleasant pictures. The arousal scores of socially unpleasant pictures showed numerous significant correlations with psychometric scores, since higher arousal is associated with higher migraine disability. Valence to unpleasant images was similarly related to migraine disability, while arousal was inversely related to the Brief Cope score.
The association between personality traits and emotional dysregulation in migraine patients is worth of attention because it could represent the cause of an increased susceptibility to many negative stimuli, may worsen the course and prognosis of the headache disorder and may amplify the vulnerability to psychopathology.