We often talk about the physical symptoms of migraines, but what about other effects of severe head pain?

People struggling with migraines are more prone to mental health struggles, such as depressive disorder and unease. According to Migraine Trust, those battling migraines are twice as likely to suffer from depression, particularly when the migraines come frequently. Around 30 to 50 percent of those enduring chronic migraines also have anxiety disorders. There’s also some proof that migraines commonly co-occur alongside bipolar illness.

What Are Migraines? 

Migraines are a type of headache that can cause intense throbbing or pulsing in one area of the head. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and can be debilitating for those who suffer from them.

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are believed to be related to changes in the brainstem and its interaction with the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for sensation in the face and head.

Causes of Migraines

Migraines can be triggered by a variety of factors, including certain foods, food preservatives or drinks; changes in sleep patterns; and hormonal changes. Some people also experience migraines as a result of environmental factors such as bright lights or loud noises.

Migraines are also often triggered by chronic stress. 

How Can Migraines Affect Mental Health?

Migraines can have a detrimental effect on mental health, both from the physical pain and distress they bring and because they interfere with ordinary life. Research has demonstrated that migraines significantly influence one’s quality of life, which explains why they may have a significant effect on one’s mental health. Dealing with these painful episodes, even infrequently, can leave you feeling deflated for days; when you wake up each morning and worry that the day might bring on another migraine, the strain can be overwhelming. Dedicating too much time to either thinking about or managing your migraines can cause feelings of anxiety or depression.

Additionally, the stigma surrounding migraines can lead to feelings of isolation and shame, further exacerbating mental health issues. Feelings of shame about migraines? It’s pretty common, because those who are afflicted with severe head pain feel bad about missing out or experiencing a reduced quality of life. 

Hormones also play a role in migraines and mental well-being. Female hormones, including estrogen, are associated with migraines and depression. Women are more susceptible to migraines than men. Research reveals that headaches can be instigated by a reduction in estrogen concentrations — on the other hand, menopause and pregnancy, which both heighten estrogen, protect against migraines. While the outcome of estrogen on mood is complex, there is copious data arguing that too much estrogen may contribute to depression.

Then there’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone. Research shows that serotonin can help relieve migraine pain because it promotes the constriction of blood vessels in the head and prevents their dilation. When your serotonin levels are low and the blood vessels going to your brain begin to dilate, the result is a throbbing pain in your head, often concentrated on one side. Although research now shows that low levels of serotonin are not responsible for depression, many people diagnosed with mental health conditions are prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which increase serotonin production and may have an effect on migraines as well as depression or anxiety.

Treatment for Migraines and Mental Health

The good news is that there are ways to help treat both migraines and mental health issues. For migraines, medications such as triptans can be used to reduce the intensity of the pain. Other treatments such as relaxation techniques, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy can also be helpful in managing migraine symptoms.

Other people find behavior modifications can help. Changing your diet, reducing alcohol consumption and caffeine, and getting enough sleep can all help reduce the frequency of migraines.

For mental health issues, therapy and medications can be used to help manage symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that can help people learn how to better cope with their thoughts and feelings. Medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed to help manage symptoms.

In conclusion, headaches can have a negative impact on mental health due to the physical pain and distress they bring, as well as how much they interfere with ordinary life. It is important to seek treatment for both migraines and mental health issues in order to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

How We Can Help

We understand migraines and head pain. Our team of experienced doctors and therapists can help you find the best treatment plan for your individual needs based on the cause of your migraines.