Migraine is predominantly female disorder, 3 to 4 times more common in women than men.
When explaining why so many more women than men have migraine, most doctors and scientists suggest differences in hormones and genetic makeup as the most logical answer to the question. But, is that really true? Although the evidence is pretty weak, most of people think it’s true, because it seems the most obvious, but I don’t think it’s just the hormones.
Did you know that more than twice as many women than men also struggle with depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders, all of which are highly co-morbid with migraine. Why is that?
There are many possible explanations for this gender gap, and they are also subject of considerable debate. This gap doesn’t seem to be explained by genetic differences.
I believe that the big reason for that is because women have more adverse experiences in life than men.
Certainly, women are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety at certain points in their reproductive life cycle. Obviously, only women have to worry about PMDD, postpartum and peri – and postmenopausal depression. However, women also experience more mental health issues than men because they are three times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, they are considerably more likely to live in poverty, to experience sexual harassment, and to endure excessive pressure to be thin and attractive.
Social conditioning also play its role, as women are more often than not raised not to express their thoughts and feelings, compared to men, who are encouraged to “shake it off” and “tough it out.” Women are more shamed, blamed and threatened, and they are taught to be mindful about their thoughts and feelings, and appearance in public. As a result, women tend to develop internalized styles of coping with distress. Internalized style of coping with distress may lead to depression and anxiety, but also to migraine. Or all three.
In other words, women experience greater stress and adversity in life than men, which is linked to both migraine and mental health issues. Adverse experiences, especially those from childhood, are proven to be linked to migraine, and variety of other health issues. Adversity changes how the brain responds to stress, making it more reactive to stimuli, and that is exactly what the migraine brain is – over-reactive to stimuli.
If any of this resonates with you, then you should probably consider your emotional history as well as triggers when dealing with the migraine.