The Role of Negative Affect on Headache-Related Disability Following Traumatic Physical Injury

Maria L. Pacella, Bryce Hruska, Richard L. George, Douglas L. Delahanty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Acute postinjury negative affect (NA) may contribute to headache pain following physical injury. Early psychiatric–headache comorbidity conveys increased vulnerability to chronic headache-related disability and impairment. Yet, it is unknown whether NA is involved in the transition to chronic headache related-disability after injury. This prospective observational study examined the role of acute postinjury NA on subacute and chronic headache-related disability above and beyond nonpsychiatric factors. Methods: Eighty adult survivors of single-incident traumatic physical injury were assessed for negative affect (NA): a composite of depression and anxiety symptoms, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSS) during the acute 2-week postinjury phase. NA was examined as the primary predictor of subacute (6-week) and chronic (3-month) headache-related disability; secondary analyses examined whether the individual NA components differentially impacted the outcomes. Results: Hierarchical linear regression confirmed NA as a unique predictor of subacute (Cohen's f 2 = 0.130; P =.005) and chronic headache related-disability (Cohen's f 2 = 0.160; P =.004) beyond demographic and injury-related factors (sex, prior headaches, and closed head injury). Upon further analysis, PTSS uniquely predicted greater subacute (Cohen's f 2 = 0.105; P =.012) and chronic headache-related disability (Cohen's f 2 = 0.103; P =.022) above and beyond demographic and injury-related factors, depression, and anxiety. Avoidance was a robust predictor of subacute headache impairment (explaining 15% of the variance) and hyperarousal was a robust predictor of chronic headache impairment (10% of the variance). Conclusion: Although NA consistently predicted headache-related disability, PTSS alone was a unique predictor above and beyond nonpsychiatric factors, depression, and anxiety. These results are suggestive that early treatment of acute postinjury PTSS may correlate with reductions in disability and negative physical health sequelae associated with PTSS and chronic headache.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-398
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • PTSD symptoms
  • acute physical injury
  • avoidance
  • headache-related disability
  • hyperarousal
  • negative affect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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