Anxiety and migraine pain don’t have to take over your life.
It may seem like your migraines just keep getting worse and worse, which may make you feel stressed or hopeless. For this reason, it might not be surprising that people with migraines are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems. The relationship goes both ways: Living with migraine can increase anxiety, and stress can trigger attacks.
The Link Between Anxiety and Migraine
Researchers have suggested that a common predisposition to anxiety disorders and migraines may exist. That means there is something unique in the brain or body that makes someone vulnerable to both conditions.
Anxiety disorders are the most common conditions in the United States, and they affect over 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Among people with migraine, that number is much higher: between 30 and 50 percent, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
The two conditions appear to worsen each other. It’s well established that stress and anxiety are a migraine trigger. However, the fear of when the next attack will come can in turn increase anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Feeling tense or on-edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing thoughts
- Sleep problems
- Changes to physical health
Treatment Options + Getting Help
It can be a challenge to treat two different conditions at the same time, but not impossible. In fact, treating anxiety may help improve your migraine management. A doctor can choose to put you on medications that are effective not only for anxiety, but for migraine pain as well.
In addition, research suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help those who have both anxiety and migraines.
If you’re suffering from anxiety and migraines, talk to your primary care doctor, neurologist, or psychiatrist about treatment options that are right for you. This will not only help manage your mental health but also make your migraine symptoms easier to deal with as well.
Noah Rosen, MD, is the director at the Northwell Health Headache Center.
- Headaches. Silver Spring, MD:Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (Accessed March 11, 2021)
- The Link Between Migraine, Depression and Anxiety. Mount Royal, NJ: The American Migraine Foundation. (Accessed March 11, 2021)
- Anxiety Disorders. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health. (Accessed March 11, 2021)