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Migraine and Mental Health: What’s the Link? Plus 5 Tips for Both

Under: Migraine & Headache

If you suffer from migraine, you know firsthand that it can do a number on your mental health. Migraine attacks can reduce your quality of life and even cause you to put your life on hold. It’s hard to get a handle on your mental health when you’re fearing your next migraine attack nonstop.

Over time this can wear you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. No wonder migraine and mental health issues often go hand in hand! This article breaks down the data linking migraine and mental health issues and offers six helpful tips for managing them both.

What’s the Relationship Between Migraine and Mental Health?

There is a bidirectional relationship between migraine and mental health – meaning one affects the other. A survey of 6,000 adults found that people with migraine are twice as likely to struggle with mental health problems. (1)

So, let’s delve a little deeper into what the data has to say:

Depression and Migraine

People with migraine are five times more likely to experience depression. (2) And the risk of depression rises with more frequent attacks. One study found that chronic migraine sufferers were twice as likely to deal with depression as those with episodic migraine. (3)


Which isn’t all that surprising. Migraine attacks can be lonely. You’re often hunkered down in a dark, quiet room, waiting for the pain to pass. Plus, migraine attacks may leave you missing out on fun social gatherings or quality time with family.

You might feel racked with guilt every time you have to cancel plans last minute. Or you might feel like no one understands your migraine struggles. This only intensifies feelings of depression and sadness.

Anxiety and Migraine

Depression is common for people with migraine, but anxiety is even more pronounced. One study found that people with migraine were 25 times more likely to feel anxiety than those who live migraine-free. What’s more, migraine patients were also 49 times more likely to deal with chronic worrying. (4)

Which makes total sense – migraine sufferers often live in constant anxiety about when the next attack might strike. Knowing that you may have to hit the pause button on your life at any time can fuel a steady stream of anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder and Migraine

Comorbid bipolar disorder and migraine have a profound connection. Only about 12% of the population suffers from migraine. Yet, one meta-analysis found that 32% of people with Bipolar I and 54% with Bipolar II disorder experience migraine. (5)

Clearly, migraine and mental health are inextricably linked. But the question is – why? Does migraine cause mental illness? Or is it the other way around?

While there’s no clear answer, scientists do have some theories.

What Causes Migraine?

Scientists haven’t nailed down the exact cause of migraine. But it’s thought to be a combo of genetics and abnormal brain activity.

In the past, migraine was thought to be caused by problems with blood flow to the brain. But today, many scientists think it’s due to overactive nerve cells triggering your trigeminal nerve.

Your trigeminal nerve contains receptors for serotonin. You might know serotonin as the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter often low in people with depression and anxiety. But it’s also needed for communication between nerve cells.

When serotonin runs high, your blood vessels shrink. But when it runs low, your blood vessels swell, which can lead to pain. That’s why when serotonin gets out of whack, it can disrupt your migraine and mental health.

Hormones are also likely part of the migraine puzzle. Changes in estrogen impact serotonin levels and can trigger migraine attacks. This is why women are three times more likely to suffer from migraine than men.

And then, of course, there are triggers that can spur on a migraine attack. Some triggers are environmental, such as strong scents, bright lights, or weather changes. Migraines can also be set off by lifestyle factors such as stress, poor sleep, and an unhealthy diet.

This is why practicing self-care is critical for anyone dealing with migraine.

How to Manage Your Migraine and Mental Health Naturally

Migraine attacks are unpredictable and can make you feel like your body is out of your control.

Yet, you have more power than you think. When it comes to migraine, prevention is where the power lies.

So here are some healthy lifestyle habits that can help tame migraine and benefit your mental health:


Regular exercise relieves stress, improves sleep, and releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. Studies show people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience depression and anxiety. (6)

Being sedentary is also linked with increased migraine frequency. (7) So get your body moving! Just be sure not to overdo it. Intense exercise can trigger migraine attacks in some people.

Not sure where to start? Check out this article for helpful tips on the best exercises for migraine.

Stress Relief

Stress is the most common migraine trigger. So getting your stress in check is key to managing your migraine and mental health.

There are tons of stress-busting techniques you can try. Here are a few:

  • Meditation trains you to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without identifying with them. Over time this can help you bust out of negative thought loops before they take hold. Research shows meditation increases gray matter in the brain, which is reduced in people with migraine. (8, 9) Nowadays, there are several handy apps like Calm and Headspace that can teach you how to meditate.


  • Yoga is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. (10) Its powerful combo of deep breathing and muscle relaxation relieves stress, making it the perfect migraine prevention tool. These five yoga poses work particularly well for migraine relief.
  • Stretching can relieve tension in your neck and muscles if yoga isn’t your thing. Done regularly, they can prevent muscle tension from building up. The next time you need to relax and unwind, try out these stretches.
  • Deep breathing calms your nervous system to keep stress at bay. And best of all, you can practice it anywhere! So the next you feel stress creeping up, whether you’re sitting in traffic or lying in bed amid an attack, take some slow deep belly breaths. Here’s a video that can help guide the way:

Natural Treatment Options

There are many pharmaceutical options available to treat migraine. Unfortunately, they often come with a long list of side effects. Luckily, there are several natural treatment options that can help you manage your migraine and mental well-being.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy trains you to reframe unhelpful thought patterns that may be amplifying feelings of depression or anxiety. Research shows CBT effectively treats a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, generalized anxiety, agoraphobia, social phobia, PTSD, and panic disorder. (11)

Yet cognitive behavioral therapy benefits migraine as well. Research shows it can reduce migraine frequency and intensity. (12) To find a therapist who practices CBT, click here.


Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to your body to track how you respond to stress. This technique is typically done via an electromyogram (EMG) feedback device. Over time, biofeedback trains your body to relax when under stress. Studies show biofeedback can reduce the duration and intensity of migraine pain. (13)

Nutritional Support

Several nutrients and herbs can offer powerful support for your mental health and migraine management. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you with these condition-specific formulas:

  • Migrelief contains a potent combo of riboflavin, magnesium, and Puracol feverfew. It’s been offering targeted nutritional support for migraine sufferers for over 25 years.

  • Resilient Mood promotes a positive mental outlook with its medley of Rhodiola, 5-HTP, saffron, and methylfolate. It helps balance your feel-good hormones and provides adaptogenic support to relieve stress.

  • Calm and Clever helps calm anxiety and promotes positive mood and sleep by reducing your stress hormone cortisol.

Migraine and mental health impact one another – that much is clear. Migraine sufferers are more likely to deal with depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder. But feelings of stress and anxiety can trigger migraine attacks too.

However, you’re not powerless. Prevention is powerful stuff. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits can lessen migraine intensity and even prevent future attacks. And natural treatment options can offer extra support to manage both your migraine and mental health.