The link between migraines and depression

  • Scientists have established a link between the frequency of migraines and the severity of anxiety and depression in people who people who suffer both
  • The root causes of migraines are unclear, but researchers think there may be a genetic link between the predispositions for migraines and mood disorders 
  • All three conditions are marked by serotonin imbalances 
  • The researchers suggest that effective treatment to prevent migraines may reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well  

By Natalie Rahhal For Dailymail.com

Published: 00:00 EDT, 18 October 2017 | Updated: 00:00 EDT, 18 October 2017

How frequently someone gets migraines is linked to how intense their bouts of anxiety and depression are, according to a new study.  

The study also found that those that did not sleep well were also more likely to get more frequent headaches.

Other current research suggests that migraines may be made more severe by depression and anxiety, and vice versa. 

According to the authors, these findings suggest that if either migraines are treated ‘preventatively,’ people may be less likely to experience anxiety and depression as severely and frequently.

About 12 percent of all Americans experience migraines. Scientists believe that there may be a genetic link between migraines, anxiety and depression. This study found that more frequent migraines were linked to more severe anxiety and depression symptoms
About 12 percent of all Americans experience migraines. Scientists believe that there may be a genetic link between migraines, anxiety and depression. This study found that more frequent migraines were linked to more severe anxiety and depression symptoms

About 12 percent of all Americans experience migraines. Scientists believe that there may be a genetic link between migraines, anxiety and depression. This study found that more frequent migraines were linked to more severe anxiety and depression symptoms

In spite of the fact that about 12 percent of American adults experience migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, the exact causes behind the acute headaches are not well understood.

Migraines create the sensation of intense throbbing, and often are also marked by nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light and sound that can last up to 72 hours. Some people experience stiffness leading up to a migraine.

There are essentially two types of migraines: those with auras, and those without. Auras are a set of nervous system symptoms. A migraine with an aura may cause someone to see flashes of light or halos, hear ringing or music, and even become weak and sensitive to touch.  

Evidence suggests that the headaches are at least partially genetic, but can be triggered by a number of factors, such as stress, hormonal changes (for women), rigorous physical activity, and certain food or sensory stimuli.

Scientists think that the interaction between the brain stem and a major nerve path may lead to migraines. We also know that serotonin levels drop during migraines, which may indicate that the hormone is involved in the headache’s onset.

Serotonin imbalances are also believed to cause mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

Migraine symptoms

Migraines are intense headaches, separated into two groups: with and without auras. 

All migraines may last up to 72 hours when untreated, and may be characterized by: 

  • head throbbing or pulsing
  • sensitivity to light and sound 
  • nausea 
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • agitation 
  • confusion

 When a migraine comes with auras, you may also experience: 

  • light halos or flashes 
  • hearing ringing or music 
  • trouble controlling movement 
  • tactile sensitivity 

According to the new study from National Defense Medical Center, in Taipei, Taiwan previous research has demonstrated the links between anxiety and depression and migraines. Some scientists suspect the connection may be genetic.

Migraines are also about three times more common among women than men. 

But this study found that, regardless of gender, among other complicating factors, the more frequently the 588 participants had migraines, the worse their anxiety and depression symptoms are. 

Just in the way that migraines and depression or anxiety are thought to influence one another, sleep quality and quantity was shown to predict how often the participants got migraines. Equally, migraine frequency was predictive of how often people had trouble sleeping. 

The study does not explain why exactly these things are all so closely inter-related, but it does establish these clear connections between migraine frequency, severity of anxiety and depression, and poor sleep.  

'Taken together, these findings suggest that preventive pharmacological treatments may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety problems in [people with migraines],' the authors concluded. 


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