Children who get migraines are far more likely to have behavioral difficulties, including social and attention issues, as well as anxiety and depression.
In fact, the more frequent the headaches, the greater the connection, according to new research.
For the study, researchers examined 1,856 Brazilian children ages 5 to 11. This is the first large, community-based study of its kind to determine whether children’s behavioral and emotional symptoms correlate with migraine and tension-type headaches (TTH).
Overall, children suffering from migraines had a much greater likelihood of abnormal behavioral scores than controls, especially in the areas of anxiety-depressive, somatic, social, attention and internalizing (behaviors directed towards the self).
Children with TTH were affected in the way as migraine sufferers, but to a lesser degree.
For children with either migraine (23 percent) or TTH (29 percent), experiencing frequent headaches correlated with a higher rate of abnormal scores on the behavior scale. The most common types of behavior were those characterized as internalizing.
Over half of migraine sufferers had problems with internalizing behaviors, compared to less than one-fifth of controls (19 percent of sample).
Externalizing behaviors, such as becoming more aggressive or breaking rules, were no more likely among the children with frequent attacks of headache than among the controls.
“As previously reported by others, we found that migraine was associated with social problems,” said Marco Arruda, M.D., director of the Glia Institute in São Paulo, Brazil.
“The ‘social’ domain identifies difficulties in social engagement as well as infantilized behavior for the age and this may be associated with important impact on the personal and social life.”
“Providers should be aware of this possibility in children with migraines, in order to properly address the problem,” he added.
Many children suffer with headaches, with migraine prevalence ranging from just over three percent to over one fifth of children as they progress from early childhood to the teen years.
Arruda conducted the research along with Marcelo Bigal, M.D., of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The study is published in the journal Cephalagia.