Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Bipolar Disorder – How Migraines Affect Your Mental Health

Research connects migraines to various psychiatric disorders including panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and social phobia. Migraineurs often experience anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, which causes lost productivity, restricted activities, and a lower quality of life.

This post will focus on how migraine pain can lead to depression and anxiety, and how it can worsen some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other similar disorders. I’ll also review some natural ways to prevent and treat your symptoms.

What the Research Says – How Migraines Affect Your Mental Health

Over the years, I’ve seen first-hand how migraineurs and others who live with chronic pain are more prone to depression and anxiety.

According to 2014 research from the Acibadem University School of Medicine, depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction all appear to be common in those with chronic migraines.

A 2015 study assessed the relationships between migraines, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and stress. The researchers stated “findings showed that episodic migraine was a risk factor on its own for sleep disturbances without comorbid depression, anxiety, and stress. Moreover, migraine-related disability and pain intensity in migraine attacks were related to poor sleep quality.”

According to Reuters, other research has associated migraine headaches with various mental disorders. In one study, 11% of the participants experienced both migraines and either:

Major depression
Dysthymia (chronic depression)
Bipolar disorder
Panic attacks or panic disorder
Substance abuse disorders

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states, “Many studies have found that people with GAD and panic disorder in particular experience migraines or other types of headaches.”  Other findings include:

  • Migraineurs with visual/audible/verbal/motor disturbances called “aura” are at a higher risk of depression than those without aura.
  • People with chronic migraines and a co-occurring mental health disorder are roughly 40% more likely to develop major depression than the general population.
  • Those with either chronic or episodic migraines are at higher risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder than others.
  • Other research has linked chronic migraines with epilepsy and ischemic stroke.


Treating Migraines Naturally and Improving Mental Health

It’s a good idea to remain mindful about migraine triggers. There are three primary culprits to migraines: food, sleep, and stress – all of which can affect your mental health.  You can use food, sleep, and stress-coping mechanisms to help avoid pain. You have direct control over some things, so start by addressing the most common triggers:


Whenever a mental health symptom pops up, a lot of doctors go straight to the meds, prescribing drugs like:

  • MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • Antiepileptic medications
  • CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) antagonists
  • Beta-blockers


However, I need to caution you, while medications may help acute concerns; taking them long term without ever searching for the underlying problem however, is just like putting a big fat piece of black tape over the check engine light on your car’s dashboard.  The car will eventually breakdown, you just won’t see it coming. All medications come with side effects, some of them very serious and it’s possible those side effects will make you worse.

Overall, migraineurs are at higher risk for developing mood disorders like depression, GAD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and social phobia. But, there is hope with natural, alternative treatments.

Think about the foods you eat, your stress levels, the amount of exercise you get, how much water you drink, and other factors that might be triggering your migraine attacks. Reducing migraine frequency or severity can help you to experience less pain, and therefore less depression and anxiety.  Start with the things you can control.




Healthline – The Link Between Chronic Migraine and Depression

Everyday Health – Migraines and Mental Illness: What’s the Connection?

Reuters – Migraine often associated with psychiatric disorders

ADAA – Headaches

PubMed – The relation of sexual function to migraine-related disability, depression and anxiety in patients with migraine.

PubMed – The relationships between migraine, depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances.