There is a definite link between chronic migraine and mental health disorders according to a review of multiple studies on the subject in the Journal of Headache and Pain. People who suffer from chronic migraine oftentimes also suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric disorders. Knowing why this occurs and why certain people are more at risk than others will help those who have both know how to more effectively approach and treat each condition.
While research suggests migraine and mental health disorders don’t necessarily cause one another, research does demonstrate that these conditions can be comorbid and often do impact one another.
Migraine and Anxiety Disorders
Migraines and chronic headaches are common in those who also have anxiety disorders. Some studies even show this relationship to be stronger than the one between migraine and depression.
Population based studies have found an increased risk of of anxiety disorders in people with migraine compared to those who don’t suffer from migraines. One study reported that 9.1% of subjects with migraine had comorbid generalized anxiety disorder, compared to just 2.5% of subjects without migraine.
Panic disorder has been found to be more strongly associated with migraine than other anxiety disorders. In fact, epidemiologic study data from more than two decades shows the odds of having panic disorder are 3.76 times higher among people with migraine than those without, and the highest rates are found in patients who have migraine with aura.
Migraine and Depression
If you suffer from frequent, painful headaches, you have every right to lay in bed in a dark room depressed. This cause-and-effect relationship—bad headaches equal a bad mood—is clear to see and has been the main logic for why the depression rate is so high with migraine sufferers (46%, which is nearly four times greater than the overall population).
But, research has concluded that genes play a large part in people having migraines and depression.
In large-scale population based studies, people with migraine are 2.2 to 4.0 times more likely to have depression than people without migraine. And a twin study of depression and migraine from more than 1,000 pairs of female twins uncovered that migraine was inherited 44% of the time while depression was 58% of the time, and that 30% of twin sets reported having both migraine and depression.
One recent case-control study also found that migraine patients who reported light sensitivity in between migraine attacks were at an increased risk for depression and anxiety. Other studies claim that migraine with aura is distinguished by psychiatric comorbidity more often than migraine without aura.
With people who have these comorbid conditions, treatment and relief for migraine and the other condition need to be considered because there are treatment options that can target and benefit both conditions.
If you suffer from migraines, ask your doctor to screen you for anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions if you haven’t already been to learn the best and most effective treatment options for your conditions and for better overall health.