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Migraine Sufferers: Are They Sexier?

Sexual Desire Stronger in Those Who Suffer the Debilitating Headaches
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 14, 2006 - A headache has long been the classic excuse to say "no" to sex. But if your partner suffers from migraines, you may hear that excuse less often.

Why? Migraine sufferers have stronger sexual desire than people who get only normal tension headaches, report Wake Forest University researcher Timothy T. Houle, PhD, and colleagues.

"Migraine is a cluster of quirks that occur together," Houle says. "Migraine sufferers are more susceptible to being depressed, and suffer more sleep abnormalities, than people who don't get migraines. And now, you can add sexual desire to this list of symptoms that may co-occur with migraines."

Houle and colleagues studied 37 women and 31 men who reported having had headaches. Their average age was 24; 90% were unmarried. Examination showed that 23 of the study participants suffered migraines, while 36 had nothing worse than tension headaches.

Migraines vs. Tension Headaches

Each person filled out a standardized questionnaire that evaluates sexual desire. They also rated themselves on how much more or less sexual desire they had than an average person.

"We discovered that migraine subjects reported higher levels of desire than tension-type headache counterparts," Houle says. "It seems as if the migraine subjects knew this already. When asked to rate their level of sex desire, they thought they had more than other people."

Overall, the men had 24% more sexual desire than the women, regardless of headache type.

But both men and women with migraines had 20% more sexual desire than those without.

"That difference was maintained across gender," Houle says. "This results in female migraine sufferers being quite like normal males in sexual desire."

Orgasm: A Migraine Cure?

This is far from the first time scientists have made the counterintuitive link between sex and migraine headaches. The father of neurology, 17th century doctor Thomas Willis, described a robust sexual appetite in his historical headache patient, Lady Catherine, says James R. Couch, MD, PhD.

Couch, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has famously described what his peers call "the Couch treatment" for migraine. Couch has found that some people's migraine headaches go away when they have an orgasm.

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