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Defense Mechanisms, Dissociation, Alexithymia and Childhood Traumas in Chronic Migraine Patients

Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy
Filiz Özsoy, İrem Taşcı
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The aim of the present study was to investigate the childhood traumas, dissociation and alexithymia levels and defense mechanisms used by migraine patients.

Materials and Methods

This study included 100 patients diagnosed with migraine-type headaches according to the International Pain Association criteria. Of these 100 patients, 66 (66%) had chronic migraine, 24 (24%) episodic migraine without aura and 10 (10%) episodic migraine with aura. In addition, a control group of 90 age- and gender-matched healthy subjects was also included in the study. All participants completed a Standardized Sociodemographic Data Collection Form, and were administered multiple scales including Beck Depression Inventory, Toronto Alexithymia Scale, Childhood Traumas Questionnaire, the Defensive Style Questionnaire and the Dissociative Experiences Scale.


The patients had significantly higher dissociation scores and were found to more likely employ immature defense mechanisms compared to healthy controls (p < 0.001 for both). Similarly, the alexithymia scores for the emotional abuse and neglect subdimensions and the total alexithymia scores were higher in the patient group compared to the control group (p < 0.001 for all).


These results indicated that migraine patients had a higher prevalence of childhood traumas, tended to have higher alexithymia, depression and dissociation scores, and were likely to employ immature defense mechanisms compared to healthy individuals. Based on these findings, we suggest that extensive evaluation of migraine patients by healthcare practitioners could be highly beneficial to better understand their clinical features, discover and treat their hidden psychiatric comorbidities, provide better assistance for these patients and improve their functionality.

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