This new study shows how migraines and anxiety are related

If your intense headaches have taken a toll on your mental health, you’re not alone — new research shows that people who suffer from migraines are three times more likely to develop anxiety disorder than those who don’t. The study, which was published in the journal Headache, analyzed mental health surveys from over 2,200 Canadian adults with migraines and nearly 20,000 adults without migraines.

Researchers found that six percent of people with migraines suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, compared to 2 percent of participants who don’t experience migraines.

Possible reasons for the strong connection between migraines and anxiety include biological, environmental, social, and emotional factors.

According to the study, the two main factors that cause anxiety in migraine patients are debilitating chronic pain and difficulty managing household responsibilities.

“We were not surprised that chronic pain played a strong role in the link between migraines and generalized anxiety disorders, said Dr. Janay Jayanthikumar, the study's co-author. "The unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of migraine pain can be extremely anxiety-producing, as it often interferes with family and work responsibilities with little or no warning.


Social support (or lack thereof) plays a major role. Participants who didn’t have at least one close friend to lean on were five times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder.

This isn’t the first study that’s found a correlation between migraines and mental health. Migraine sufferers are twice as likely to develop depression, and migraines have also been linked to bipolar disorder. People who experience chronic migraines are also at greater risk for panic disorders and agoraphobia.

“Doctors and other health professionals need to be especially aware of the fact that their migraine patients may be experiencing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders, said Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, the study's lead author. “Targeted screening for these problems and referral to mental health professionals may be warranted for patients with migraines who are particularly vulnerable.

If anxiety has become a co-companion to your migraines, don’t be afraid to seek help from medical professionals and loved ones.

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