Illness perception in patients with migraine: An exploratory study in a tertiary care headache centre

Laura Sirri, Giulia Pierangeli, Sabina Cevoli, Pietro Cortelli, Silvana Grandi, Eliana Tossani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Illness perception is significantly related to several outcome measures in different medical conditions. However, little is known about headache-related causal attributions and cognitive and emotional representations in patients with migraine. Objective: To examine perceived causes of headache and demographic, clinical, and psychological correlates and predictors of illness perception in patients with migraine attending a tertiary care headache centre. Methods: A sample of 143 patients with migraine (85.3% women, mean age 44.0 ± 12.1 years) completed the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (Brief IPQ), the Symptom Questionnaire (SQ), and the Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) Questionnaire. A set of demographic and clinical characteristics was also collected. Results: Stress, heredity, and nervousness were the most frequent perceived causes of headache. Female gender was significantly related to higher Brief IPQ “consequences” and “emotional response” scores. Increased psychological distress and a poorer clinical course were significantly associated with more negative illness representations. In multiple regression analysis, a longer illness duration, increased depressive symptoms, and higher levels of headache-related disability and painfulness of headache attacks independently predicted a worse illness perception. Conclusions: In patients with migraine, depressive symptoms and a worse disease status, characterized by a longer history of suffering, higher disability and more painful headache attacks, may negatively affect illness perception. It could also be that dysfunctional illness representations lead to depressive symptoms and decrease patients' motivation to adhere to treatments, resulting in a worse outcome. Future studies should examine whether the improvement of illness perception through specific psychological interventions may promote a better adaptation to migraine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Common-sense model
  • Headache
  • Illness perception
  • Illness representations
  • Migraine
  • Self-regulatory model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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