A single young man who was found to develop severe headaches five minutes into watching pornographic videos has been reported by researchers from India in the journal Archives of Behavior. The 24-year old professional, whose headaches were described as exploding holocranial headaches, had been complaining of porn-linked head pains for over two years, the authors added.

Authors, Kuljeet Singh Anand and Vikas Dhikav, from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India, explained that the patient's headaches would peak within eight to ten minutes into watching a pornographic movie. In most cases, his pain became so intense that he could no longer watch the video. The young man had no history of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure).

As a means of avoiding the severe headaches, the man started to refrain from watching the videos. He had no symptoms of vomiting, nausea or phonophobia (dislike of loud sounds - classic symptom of migraine). There was no history of any head injury or meningoencephalitis when he was a young child.

The researchers said the patient had never suffered any headaches linked to sexual intercourse or masturbation - his problem only occurred when he watched pornographic videos.

After carrying out a systemic and physical examination of the young man, the authors found "nothing remarkable". There was no family history of migraine, no personal medical history that might be suggestive of migraine, tension type or exertional headache (headache as a result of straining or exertion). MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of his brain came back normal.

The researchers advised him to take paracetamol (Tylenol, acetaminophen) 500 mg plus ibuprofen 400 mg thirty minutes before watching pornographic videos. The patient reported that this non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent combination provided "significant relief".

Kuljeet Singh Anand explained that headaches linked to sexual activity are rare. Sometimes, pre-orgasmic headache may be associated with space-occupying lesions.

What made this case unusual was that the man was getting headaches from watching pornography and not from sexual intercourse or masturbation. He was becoming aroused but experiencing no release - whether this fact might explain the severe headaches, the researchers are not sure.

Approximately 1% of people, most of them men, have sexual-activity linked headaches. Experts believe that simple arousal may, in some people trigger changes in nerve sensitivity, muscle tension and bloodflow in the brain which may alter pain perception.

In most cases, headaches linked to certain activities, such as sex or exercise can be treated with painkillers. Sometimes, however, they may be a sign of a tumor or aneurysm (not the case with this man).

The authors concluded:

"The probable mechanisms behind occurrence of headache in the present case could be alteration of nocioceptive* mechanisms in the trigemino-vascular system with increased pain sensitivity associated with a heightened emotional state associated with viewing pornorgraphy."
* ("nocioception" refers to the neural processes of encoding and processing noxious stimuli)

The trigeminovascular system is made up of neurons in the tregeminal nerve that supply the blood vessels in the brain with nerves. Some experts believe that the trigeminovascular system may play a role in some types of headaches.


Head deep facial trigeminal
Head deep facial and trigeminal nerves

Written by Christian Nordqvist