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Migraines Tied To Risk of Anxiety Disorder

Migraines Tied to Increased Risk of Anxiety Disorder

New research suggests the chronic pain associated with migraines may be a reason for an increased incidence of generalized anxiety disorders among adults who have migraines.

University of Toronto researchers discovered adults with migraines have a much stronger risk for developing an anxiety disorder than adults without migraines (6 percent versus 2 percent).

Investigators believe a number of possible factors could link migraine and generalized anxiety disorders.

First author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson said, “This link between migraine and generalized anxiety disorders in the past year was partially explained by the disturbingly high prevalence of debilitating chronic pain (30 percent) and problems in managing household responsibilities (28 percent) among those with migraine.”

Co-author and recent M.S.W. graduate from the University of Toronto, Janany Jayanthikumar added, “We were not surprised that chronic pain played a strong role in the link between migraines and generalized anxiety disorders. The unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of migraine pain can be extremely anxiety producing as it often interferes with family and work responsibilities with little or no warning.”

In a twist from common perceptions, the study found that men with migraine had almost double the odds of generalized anxiety disorder compared with women with migraine.

“This was a surprising finding because, in the general population, women are more likely than men to develop generalized anxiety disorder.

“Our results may be due to the fact that men are less likely than women to take medication to treat their migraine and therefore the disorder may be more painful and less controllable, which could result in anxiety,” said co-author Senyo Agbeyaka, a recent M.S.W. grad.

What’s more, researchers discovered that for individuals with migraines, not having a confidante was associated with a five-fold greater risk generalized anxiety disorder compared to those with at least one person to confide in. Moreover, social support was shown to play an important protective role in the mental health consequences of other chronic pain disorders.

“It is important for health professionals to be monitoring for the presence of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, in their patients with migraine,” Fuller-Thomson said.

“Of particular concern are men with migraines, those who experience chronic and debilitating pain, those who are struggling to cope with their daily responsibilities and those who are socially isolated.”

The study appears in the journal Headache.

Source: University of Toronto/EurekAlert

Migraines Tied to Increased Risk of Anxiety Disorder

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Migraines Tied to Increased Risk of Anxiety Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 30 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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