Published On By Rachel Nall

Migraines And AnxietyAnxiety can manifest in various forms, both mental and physical. If you have ever experienced a headache during a stressful situation, then it could be a physical symptom of anxiety.

Many people experience these anxiety-induced headaches. It is more common in people with anxiety disorders like panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, or social anxiety disorder.

There are some simple preventative measures you could take to manage an anxiety-induced headache.

Relation Between Anxiety & Migraines

  1. Shared Triggers

    Stress and anxiety may serve as triggers for migraine attacks. These triggers often exacerbate migraine symptoms and contribute to the onset of throbbing head pain in people.

    Here are some common triggers associated with migraines and anxiety:

    • Stressful events like adverse life experiences or trauma may trigger attacks.
    • Insufficient sleep patterns could influence anxiety and migraine frequency.
    • Physical stress and exertion could also lead to episodes of anxiety and migraine headaches.
  2. Psychological Impact

    Dealing with chronic pain and the unpredictability of migraine attacks can significantly impact mental well-being.

    The table below highlights some common psychological effects experienced by people with migraines:

    Psychological Impact Description
    Anxiety Individuals may experience excessive worry, fear, and restlessness, often related to migraine attacks and their consequences.
    Depression Feelings of sadness, despair, and lack of interest in activities can be prevalent due to the chronic nature of migraines and their impact on daily life.
    Psychological Distress Emotional suffering, including feelings of overwhelm, helplessness, and frustration, could be pervasive among people dealing with frequent migraines.
  3. Neurobiological Pathways

    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is involved in regulating mood and pain. Alterations in serotonin levels could contribute to the development and worsening of both migraines and anxiety.

    During migraines, fluctuations in serotonin levels could cause abnormal constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain, leading to headaches. Similarly, in anxiety, imbalances in serotonin could affect your mood, leading to feelings of worry and fear.

    Other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) could also influence the neurobiology of migraines and anxiety.

    Norepinephrine is associated with the body’s stress response, and its dysregulation could contribute to heightened anxiety levels and potentially trigger migraine attacks. GABA, known for its calming effects on the brain, could influence anxiety and migraine symptoms.

  4. Lifestyle

    Prolonged anxiety often leads to irregular sleeping patterns, which could trigger migraines and contribute to their persistence.

    Elevated anxiety may result in poor dietary habits, such as skipping meals and consuming excessive junk food. The consumption of such junk food during an anxiety episode may be a potential contributor to migraine.

    People experiencing anxiety may have increased caffeine consumption. However, excessive caffeine intake could also lead to migraines.

    Anxious people may resort to coping mechanisms such as alcohol consumption, smoking, or lack of physical activity. These behaviors could worsen migraines and make them more challenging to manage.

  5. Pain Perception

    Anxiety could enhance the sensation of pain during migraines, making the experience more distressing for people. The increased perception of pain could create a cycle where anxiety flare-ups worsen the severity of migraine symptoms. In response, migraine-induced pain could increase stress levels.

Preventing Methods Of Anxiety & Migraine Headaches

  1. Seek Professional Support

    Seeking guidance from a neurologist or a mental health specialist is essential for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment to address both migraines and anxiety.

    These professionals have the expertise to assess the complex interplay between migraines and anxiety. They consider factors like shared neurobiological pathways, triggers, and lifestyle habits that may contribute to these conditions.

    After an evaluation, the mental health specialist may recommend pharmacological treatments or behavioral therapies.

  2. Address Triggers

    Common triggers for migraines include stress and hormonal changes. Lifestyle factors influenced by anxiety, like irregular sleep patterns and poor dietary habits, may also contribute to migraine attacks.

    You may take proactive measures to minimize the impact of these stressors by identifying patterns and associations between their onset.

    Implementing stress-reduction techniques, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and practicing relaxation could help address these triggers.

  3. Healthy Dietary Habits

    Dehydration could be a common trigger for migraines. Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated and reduce migraine episodes.

    Certain foods could trigger migraines in some people. Keep track of potential trigger foods and consider eliminating or reducing their consumption. Some common foods that might cause migraine are aged cheeses, processed meats, and artificial sweeteners.

    Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraines. To reduce migraine frequency, include magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as whole grains, seeds, Swiss chard, and dark leafy greens.

    Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption could also worsen migraine severity. Limiting caffeine and alcohol may help manage migraine episodes.

  4. Implement Stress Management

    Mindfulness meditation could help you focus on present-moment awareness and reduce anxiety levels. It might result in a reduced frequency of migraine attacks.

    Deep breathing exercises might help calm your mind, alleviate stress, and potentially prevent anxiety-related migraines.

    Regular yoga sessions may improve flexibility and strength, promote relaxation, and reduce stress. Such effects might help reduce migraine and anxiety onset.

  5. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    CBT focuses on the connection between your brain’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This behavioral therapy aims to reframe negative thinking patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

    Through CBT, you could learn to challenge irrational beliefs, confront fears, and gradually desensitize yourself to anxiety-provoking situations.

    CBT could be effective in managing various anxiety disorders and panic disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.

    Studies suggest that CBT can also be valuable in lowering migraine frequency and severity in people with comorbid anxiety.

  6. Consider Relaxation Techniques

    People experiencing migraines triggered by muscle tightness or stress may benefit from progressive muscle relaxation. It implies the gradual tensing and then controlled relaxing of different muscle groups, which may reduce muscle tension and promote physical relaxation.

    Aromatherapy using essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, or chamomile, may also have calming effects on the mind and body. These oils might help in alleviating anxiety and potentially reducing migraine symptoms.

  7. Certain Medications

    Preventative medications can be prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Some medicines like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen are administered to treat migraine episodes when they happen. They might relieve symptoms like pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound, common during a migraine.

    Antidepressants could also be prescribed to manage anxiety symptoms, as anxiety and migraines often coexist. They might help you feel calmer to deal with other problems.

    Mirtazapine and nefazodone are newer antidepressants that may help treat anxiety on a broader spectrum.

  8. Regular Exercise

    Engaging in physical activities could positively affect mental health by releasing endorphins, natural mood lifters. Running, dancing, strength training, or swimming could improve your mood and help reduce anxiety.

    Regular exercise may also be crucial in reducing migraines’ frequency and intensity. Physical activity may help improve blood flow and circulation, which can benefit migraine management.

    Exercise could also aid in maintaining a healthy weight, as excess weight gain could be a risk factor for migraines. They could be directly related to weight gain and worsening migraine intensity by increasing headache frequency.

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Do Migraines Cause Anxiety?

The relationship between migraines and anxiety may involve shared physiological processes, increasing the likelihood of experiencing both conditions.

Periodic migraine episodes could trigger anticipatory anxiety. The unpredictable nature of these attacks could instill fear and apprehension in some people.

Migraines, with symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, could potentially lead to social anxiety. This may impart fear, worry, or restlessness in social settings.

Studies indicate that people with episodic and chronic migraines could also experience anxiety-related symptoms.

Migraine-anxiety Related Dizziness (MARD)

MARD is characterized by people experiencing migraines with vestibular symptoms, such as dizziness, alongside anxiety. Vestibular migraines manifest primarily with vertigo or dizziness, in addition to typical migraine symptoms like severe headaches.

People with vestibular migraines may encounter episodes of imbalance and spatial orientation issues. These issues often occur before, during, or after a migraine attack.

Anxiety could potentially worsen the dizziness symptoms during a vestibular migraine attack, creating a challenging cycle where each condition influences the other.

Medications may be prescribed to address migraines and anxiety, with preventive measures considered based on symptom severity, anxiety triggers, and frequency.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Can Anxiety Medication Worsen Migraine Symptoms?
    Anxiety medication can potentially worsen migraine symptoms in some people. Understanding the interaction between anxiety medication and migraines and consulting with a doctor is vital for effective management and treatment.
  • How Do Hormonal Changes Affect the Relationship Between Anxiety and Migraines?
    Fluctuations in hormones, especially estrogen, could trigger both anxiety and migraine episodes in some people. It may occur due to hormonal influence on neurotransmitters and vascular function, underscoring the interconnectedness of these conditions.
  • Is There a Genetic Component to the Co-Occurrence of Migraines and Anxiety?
    Certain genetic factors may increase susceptibility to both anxiety and migraines. Abnormalities in genes like ATP1A2 contribute to their shared manifestation. Family history also plays a significant role.
  • Do Weather Changes Have an Impact on Both Anxiety and Migraine Episodes?
    Weather changes could impact anxiety and migraine episodes. Barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity shifts may trigger symptoms in susceptible people. Understanding these weather-related triggers could help manage both conditions effectively through preventive strategies and lifestyle adjustments.
  • Can SSRIs Trigger Migraine?
    SSRIs might worsen migraines. It might be good for Migraine prophylaxis in the long term. However, acute administration of SSRIs might worsen the condition of migraineurs.


Anxiety and migraine may co-exist in some people. The exact link between migraines and anxiety may not be known. Still, research has established a potential relationship between the two conditions.

Both anxiety and migraine may share common triggers, psychological impact, and neurobiological pathways.

However, addressing these triggers, implementing stress management techniques, and trying cognitive behavioral therapy might help diminish the impact of these conditions.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this review.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips or strategies.

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