It’s no secret that migraine can be a painful, debilitating physical condition. But did you know that the stress of living with a chronic condition like migraine can also take a toll on our mental health? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we’re discussing the relationship between migraine and mental health.

Common Mental Health Disorders Experienced by People with Migraine

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety

The American Migraine Foundation has discussed the link between migraine, depression, and anxiety with Dawn Buse, PhD, the director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center and an associate professor in the Department of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Dr. Buse has identified a direct correlation between the frequency of headache attack days in people with migraine and the likelihood that they have depression. According to Dr. Buse, about 20% of people with fewer than 14 headache days per month (episodic migraine) have depression, and that percentage only increases as the number of headache days per month increase.

There’s a similar correlation between the frequency of headache attack days and the likelihood of having anxiety, with about 20% of people with episodic migraine having anxiety and that percentage increasing as headache days increase. In people with chronic migraine, or more than 14 headache days per month, anxiety is even more prevalent—30% to 50% of people with chronic migraine also have anxiety.

Dr. Buse has noted that it’s not entirely clear whether migraine causes depression and anxiety or depression and anxiety cause migraine, or both. In people with both migraine and an anxiety disorder, for example, the likelihood of experiencing major depression increases, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Whatever the cause, awareness of the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as the symptoms they both can share with migraine, will help you make sense of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Stages & Symptoms of Migraine

  1. Prodrome – Constipation, mood swings, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination, and frequent yawning
  2. Aura – Visual phenomena, vision impairment, pins and needles sensations in limbs, weakness or numbness on one side of the face or body, speech impairment, auditory hallucinations (noises or music), and uncontrollable body movements
  3. Headache Attack – Pain on one or both sides of the head, throbbing or pulsing pain, sensitivity to light and sound (and sometimes smell and touch), nausea and vomiting
  4. Post-drome – Fatigue, confusion, and, rarely, elation

Symptoms of Anxiety

  1. Feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or tension
  2. A sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  3. Increased heart rate
  4. Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
  5. Sweating
  6. Shaking or trembling
  7. Fatigue
  8. Difficulty concentrating
  9. Insomnia
  10. Gastrointestinal distress
  11. Uncontrolled worry
  12. Avoidance of anxiety triggers

Symptoms of Depression

  1. Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  2. Anger, irritability, or frustration, including outbursts caused by minor issues
  3. Disinterest in activities that used to bring pleasure
  4. Insomnia, oversleeping, or other sleep disturbances
  5. Fatigue
  6. Loss of appetite and weight loss, or, conversely, increased food cravings and weight gain
  7. Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  8. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  9. Difficulty thinking or concentrating, difficulty making decisions, difficulty remembering things
  10. Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  11. Unexplained physical ailments, such as back pain or headaches
  12. Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and think you may hurt yourself, seek help immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number. If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can also get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Trained staff are available to speak to you 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Treatment for Mental Health and Migraines

There are many treatment options for migraine, anxiety, and depression. From medications to biofeedback therapy to lifestyle changes, an individualized treatment plan developed with the help of medical and mental health professionals can provide relief from some of the symptoms experienced by people with these co-occurring disorders.

Where standard treatments don’t provide relief, Stop Migraines offers an innovative “Migraine Procedure” to relieve migraine symptoms, alleviate the stress caused by them, and improve quality of life as a result. If your migraines are taking a toll, contact us to learn more about how our state-of-the-art treatment method will treat the migraine symptoms that can feel relentless.