Dependency-like behaviors and pain coping styles in subjects with chronic migraine and medication overuse: Results from a 1-year follow-up study

Bruno Biagianti, Licia Grazzi, Susanna Usai, Orsola Gambini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Even after successful detoxification, 20-40% of subjects presenting chronic migraine with symptomatic medication overuse (CMwMO) relapse into medication overuse within one year. In this restrospective analysis on subjects referred to our center for detoxification, we investigated whether personality traits, dependency-like behaviors and pain coping styles predicted those who relapsed into medication overuse within the 12 months following the detoxification and those who did not.Methods: 63 patients with CMwMO were assessed for personality traits, mood and anxiety, pain coping styles and dependency-like behaviors prior-to and one year after a detoxification program.Results: Of the 42 subjects who attended 1-year follow-up interviews, 11 relapsed into medication overuse despite a temporary benefit from detoxification and did not show clinical or psychological improvement, instead reporting increased anxiety and unmodified perpetuation of severe dependency-like behaviors. In contrast, subjects who did not relapse into medication overuse had clinical improvements that generalized to untreated domains, including decreased depressive symptoms and dependency-like behaviors, although showing unmodified low internal control over pain.Conclusions: Subjects who did not fall into medication overuse throughout the 12 months following the detoxification showed improved clinical, affective and dependence-related outcomes, but not pain coping strategies. Conversely, subjects who relapsed within one year into CMwMO continued to experience significant disability, pain intensity, and dependency-like behaviors. We believe that the persistence of maladaptive pain coping strategies and residual symptomatology increase the risk for recurrent relapses, against which pharmacological interventions are only partially effective. Further studies investigating predictors of relapse are needed to inform multi-disciplinary interventions for CMwMO.

Original languageEnglish
Article number181
JournalBMC Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 19 2014


  • Chronic migraine
  • Dependency-like behaviors
  • Headache-related disability
  • Medication overuse
  • Pain locus of control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Medicine(all)


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