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article imageWhy do migraines occur? Part 2: Migraines and anxiety

By Tim Sandle     Apr 11, 2017 in Health
Researchers have discovered that anxiety disorder is more common among people who have migraines compared with than those without migraines. Our review of this research is the second part of a two part article looking at migraines.
In part one, looking into migraines, we looked at a new study which found that dopamine levels in the brain drop and fluctuates during a migraine headache. The research suggests that migraines are linked to reward-motivated behavior. Moving from biological triggers to the psychological, the second part of our feature considers the connection between migraines and anxiety.
The link between migraines and anxiety has been made by scientists from the University of Toronto. According to lead researcher Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson: "this link between migraine and generalized anxiety disorders in the past year was partially explained by the disturbingly high prevalence of debilitating chronic pain and problems in managing household responsibilities among those with migraine."
The connection may run both ways. Those who suffer with anxiety disorder are more likely to suffer with migraines and the regular recurrence of migraines fuels anxiety, because it often interferes with family and work responsibilities and often happens with little or no warning.
A migraine is a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. Many people have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Migraines are a common medical condition among youth and adults, affecting 12 percent of people ages 12 and older. Migraines may alter brain structure, with some research showing how migraine raised the risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities and altered brain volume compared to people without the disorder. Preventive treatments of migraines include medications, nutritional supplements, lifestyle alterations, and surgery.
All pain medications can be dangerous if misused or abused.
All pain medications can be dangerous if misused or abused.
The new research looks at the association between migraine and anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe. The feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a fast heart rate and shakiness. The condition is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry, that is, apprehensive expectation about events or activities.
The Canadian research discovered that men with migraine had double the odds of generalized anxiety disorder compared with women with migraine. The reason for this gender difference is unknown. It may relate to social factors, with men finding in harder to raise issues of anxiety and also being less likely to take migraine medication.
Across both men and women it was found that migraineurs (a word for those who suffer from migraines) who did not have a confidant were five times more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder compared to those who had someone to confide in. Here the researchers emphasize the importance of social support.
The new research has been published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. The research article is titled “Untangling the Association Between Migraine, Pain, and Anxiety: Examining Migraine and Generalized Anxiety Disorders in a Canadian Population Based Study.”
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