Migraine Associated with Mental Health Disorders

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Evidence has long indicated that Migraine disease is associated with mental health disorders. In 2000, a study showed major depressive disorder to impact 47% of Migraineurs as opposed to 17% of the general population.3 A new study used a large population-based sample to analyze the association between Migraine disease and mental health disorders.

Study methods:

  • Sareen and his colleagues drew and analyzed data from the German Health Survey, which was conducted from 1997 to 1999.
  • Migraine was diagnosed by physicians as opposed to being self-reported by study participants.
  • Trained interviewers evaluated study participants for mental health disorders using the German National Health Interview and Examination Survey - Mental Health Supplement (GHS-MHS).
  • Lifetime and 12-month history of Migraines were assessed.
  • Lifetime and 12-month history of mental health disorders were assessed.

Study results and conclusions:

  • Out of 7,124 adults, 11.7% had a history of Migraine. This is consistent with World Health Organization estimates of 12% prevalence of Migraine in the world's general population.
  • Past-year Migraine was associated with:
    • major depressive disorder
    • dysthymia
    • bipolar disorder
    • panic attacks
    • panic disorder
    • agoraphobia
    • simple phobia
  • Substance abuse and dependence disorders were NOT found to be associated with Migraine.
  • Migraines may be a risk factor for major depressive disorder.
  • Anxiety often preceded Migraine; Migraine then often preceded depression.

Excerpts from Sareen et al discussion section:1

"Our analyses allow associations to be made but prospective studies would be needed in order to better address whether migraine is a risk factor for the development of mental disorders or whether mental disorders are risk factors for the development of migraine, or both."

"In conclusion, the significant associations between migraine and mood disorders as well as panic attacks, panic disorder, simple phobia, and agoraphobia are important findings for psychiatry/psychology and general health care. It is important for the general physician to recognize the association between migraine and mental health and to include a proper history, physical examination and investigations for other conditions when mental or physical disorders are present. This knowledge is vital to the holistic treatment of these comorbid patients. It is also important for the psychiatrist to understand how migraine interacts with the mental health issues they encounter."

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