Open Access

Cephalalgiaphobia: a possible specific phobia of illness

  • M. F. P. Peres1, 4Email author,
  • J. P. P. Mercante1,
  • V. Z. Guendler1,
  • F. Corchs2,
  • M. A. Bernik2,
  • E. Zukerman1 and
  • S. D. Silberstein3
The Journal of Headache and Pain20078:361

Received: 18 November 2006

Accepted: 15 January 2007

Published: 19 February 2007


Psychiatric comorbidity, mainly anxiety and depression, are common in chronic migraine (CM). Phobias are reported by half of CM patients. Phobic avoidance associated with fear of headache or migraine attack has never been adequately described. We describe 12 migraine patients with particular phobic-avoidant behaviours related to their headache attacks, which we classified as a specific illness phobia, coined as cephalalgiaphobia. All patients were women, mean age 42, and all had a migraine diagnosis (11 CM, all overused acute medications). Patients had either a phobia of a headache attack during a pain-free state or a phobia of pain worsening during mild headache episodes. Patients overused acute medication as phobic avoidance. It is a significant problem, associated with distress and impairment, interfering with medical care. Cephalalgiaphobia is a possible specific phobia of illness, possibly linked to progression of migraine to CM and to acute medication overuse headache.

Key words

PhobiaMigraineAnxiety disordersIllness phobiaComorbidity