Migraine Comorbidities: Mental Health Disorders

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | August 28, 2022

Migraine is comorbid with a range of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and many other mood disorders. According to one study, up to 47% of people with migraine have comorbid depression, and up to 58% have comorbid anxiety—both commonly occurring especially among people with chronic migraine.[1] Researchers believe there may be some neurological connection between migraine and mental health disorders [2] and there is emerging evidence of genetic links between migraine, depression, and anxiety.[3]

A Two-Way Street

In addition to the neurological connection, the overlap between migraine and depression/anxiety is one that is very understandable. Chronic pain, the unpredictability of attacks, and challenges navigating the healthcare system, all negatively impact life in so many ways, causing worry, sadness, hopelessness, fear and frustration. Migraine is often an isolating condition that can create issues at work, school, home and society in general. People with migraine may have anxiety over fear of their next attack, and their previous negative experiences may even cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Mood changes can themselves be symptoms of a migraine attack, and increased anxiety, depression, feelings of restlessness or worry are often warning signs that an attack is coming (read more about that here). To further complicate things, side effects of migraine medications can include depression and anxiety. It should not be a surprise that people with comorbid migraine and mental health disorders frequently experience worse symptoms and increased disability.[4]

While living with migraine has notable effects on mental health, this is also a two-way street. Stress caused by untreated mental health issues like anxiety can have a physical impact on the body over time and can trigger migraine attacks. In fact, headaches can often be an indicator of anxiety disorders.[5] Some mental health disorders prevent people from getting quality sleep, further putting them at risk for an increase in the frequency and/or severity of migraine attacks. In addition, living with comorbid migraine and mental health issues can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle as it can be hard to find the energy and motivation needed to do things such as exercise or cook well-balanced meals.


While treating mental health conditions is unlikely to eliminate migraine attacks, effective treatment can lower the risk of migraine becoming chronic, which in itself has a positive impact on mental health.[6] Fortunately, there are some treatment options that can be used for both mental health disorders (such as depression, anxiety and bipolar) and migraine. This may not only reduce the number of medications taken, but it also as a consequence it also reduces the risk of medication interaction and intolerable side effects. Some of the treatment options that are included in this list may include:

  • Anti-anxiety, depression and bipolar medications
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by prioritizing sleep
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Meditation
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture

If you live with migraine and also experience mental health issues, it’s important to discuss them with your headache doctor so that you can work together to create a personalized treatment plan that is best for you. It can also be very helpful to connect with others who are going through a similar situation, and support groups such as Migraine Meanderings can be a “safe place” to get support, discover resources, and learn from others.

Tell us! Do you live with comorbid mental health issues and migraine? What do you find most challenging? What tips and ideas do you have for other people in a similar situation?


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7496280/
  2. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/headaches
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6057914/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26886355/
  5. https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/87/7/741

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