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Migraines and Mood Disorders

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Dec 26, 2014 7:00:00 AM

When medical researchers study the migraine condition, they often focus on systemic issues. Migraines are caused by vascular and neurochemical irregularities, but there is also a strong behavioral factor associated with migraine episodes.

In 2009, researchers from the University of Manitoba in Canada took a close look at more than 4,000 German patients who were diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder. This research study revealed that 11 percent of the patients surveyed had also been diagnosed with migraines, a percentage that is actually lower than in populations that have not been diagnosed with emotional conditions.

That migraines can occur in patients who have been clinically diagnosed with mental disorders can be explained with one neurochemical theory of enzymes that fail to deliver messages to the brain that prompt certain physiological and behavioral reactions. The University of Manitoba study also took a look at the causal relationship between migraines and two common emotional disorders: anxiety and depression. As expected, many patients who live with the migraine condition experience a certain level of anxiety as they fear the onset of a terrible headache episode. This anxiousness can turn into depression after just one episode, and it can become recurrent.

When looking at health statistics of migraine patients, we will find depression and anxiety in more than 80 percent of patients, and this percentage is even higher among patients who suffer from chronic migraines preceded by an aura phase. In many cases, dealing with migraines for many years is bound to cause anxiety and depression, but this is not always a behavioral causality.

Migraines and Depression

A typical scenario among chronic migraine patients involves the following:
  • The patient feels stressed
  • A visual or auditory aura develops
  • Anxiety sets in at the thought of an impending episode
  • A headache sets in
  • The patient feels depressed afterward

If you think that the scenario above is simply a behavioral pattern, you need to consider genetic studies that have determined that some people are born with a gene arrangement that can influence both migraines and depression. The anxiety part is mostly behavioral, but the migraines and depression are more likely to be of a neurochemical nature.

In other words, patients who suffer from migraines from an early age are likely genetically predisposed to also suffer from depression. For this reason, some physicians prescribe antidepressants to migraine patients who do not exhibit symptoms of depression. Studies have shown that the flow of serotonin not only causes depression but also migraines.

Stress and Bipolar Behavior

Some migraine patients are known to experience deep mood swings that correlate to serotonin depletion, which can be measured in their urine. When serotonin levels plummet, a person's behavior can turn manic depressive. Some migraine patients are able to channel their anxieties positively, and they may seem like very happy people before they suffer from headache episodes. When their serotonin decreases to unhealthy levels, they may even consider suicide since they do not feel any reward in continuing to live. This bipolar behavior is a reality for many migraine patients, and it can be controlled to a certain extent with medications and behavioral modification therapy.

Stress has a strong causal relationship with the migraine condition and its behavioral impact. Stress is the most common trigger of migraine episodes, and it also exacerbates anxiety and depressive episodes. The worst thing that a person who suffers from both migraines and emotional imbalances can go through is continuous stress. Thankfully, stress is an outside factor that can actually be controlled by patients to a great extent. Stress itself is not a problem in and of itself; how we allow it to impact our lives is the issue. This is especially the case with migraine patients, who must learn to reason that feelings are not facts, and that their reactions to stress can actually determine their quality of life.

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Topics: Migraine

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