“Not tonight dear. I have a headache,” may be a legitimate excuse after all. A new study finds that women who get repeated headaches, including migraines, are more inclined to have sexual problems than women who don’t.
“Women referred for severe head pain report a high rate of sexual symptoms and sexual distress,” reported the study researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy.
In many cases, increased anxiety is associated with headaches, while low desire for sex and sexual pain is associated with tension and migraine headaches. Over 80 percent of women in developed countries experience tension-type headaches, reports the World Health Organization.
Researchers studied a sample of 100 women who were being treated for chronic headaches. The average age of the women was 40. Some women complained of tension headaches, while others suffered from chronic headaches — signifying they had headaches for over 15 days out of a month. Most women in the study were inflicted with migraines.
The analysis included study participant interviews, neurological tests, and a medical history assessment. Also part of the analysis: the women were asked to complete a questionnaire about their sex lives.
Results of the questionnaire revealed that over 90 percent of the patients indicated that they had sexual problems. Twenty percent disclosed that they had a low sex drive — so much so that it caused them to have personal distress. Another 17 percent also reported having a low sex drive, but not to the point where they were agonizing about it.
There are several explanations for the link between headaches and sexual problems, noted the researchers. Research has found that any type of chronic pain — not necessarily just headaches — affects sexual arousal and desire. But people who suffer from headaches often have other mood disorders, like anxiety and depression, both of which can affect a woman’s sex drive and satisfaction level. What’s more, medication used to treat headaches may meddle with sex.
“Further studies are needed to gain a better insight into the determinants of this overrepresentation of sexual dysfunction in women treated for primary headaches,” the researchers recommended.
Physicians treating people with headaches are urged to ask patients about any history of sexual problems in order to make the connection, the Italian researchers concluded.
The study was published online in Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International society for Sexual Medicine.