Famous Migraineurs: Anne Frank

Patient Expert

Anne Frank's contribution to the history of the Holocaust is well known; but did you also know she may have suffered from Migraines? Due to the various symptoms she describes in her dairies_, Migraine researchers_ believe that Anne probably had Migraines and tension-type headaches. Anne was born on June 12, 1929, to parents Otto and Edith Frank. Anne and Margot, her older sister, lived in Frankfurt, Germany until Anne was five-years-old.

Otto, being in the banking business, had business connections in Amsterdam. This enabled him to escape there just weeks before the Nazi's began their rise to power in 1933. He went to Amsterdam, leaving behind his wife and two daughters with their grandparents in Aachen, Germany. The Franks were reunited in February, 1934, with Anne being the last family member to arrive in Amsterdam. It wasn't until 1942 that German and Dutch authorities began to concentrate on the Jewish people throughout the Netherlands, tracking them down, sending thousands off to transit camps, then on to concentration camps. Anne and Margot were picked for labor camps at Bergen-Belsen. The girls died of typhus in March, 1945, a few short weeks before their camp was liberated. Edith Frank died in Auschwitz in January, 1945. Only Otto survived World War II.

Anne and her family shared a small, cramped secret attic apartment from 1942 to 1944, until four other Jews joined them. On Anne's 13th birthday, she was given a diary in which she wrote about her hopes, dreams, daily life and thoughts about becoming a woman while living in the "Secret "Annex" as she called it. She also described her isolation and fears of captured in the diary.

She experienced episodic head pain and was able to describe the symptoms in her diary. Some of them include vomiting, eye pain, and nausea. During these painful episodes, she wanted to be left alone and to be able to sleep. Anne often described her head pain as "throbbing," "pounding," "awful" and "terrifying." With some letters Anne wrote and entries from her diaries, de Almeida and Kowacs determined that Anne's sym_ptomsmetthe__International Headache Society criteria for probable Migraine and tension-type headaches._

Anne's first reference to a headache was found in one of her letters written during a 1941 summer vacation:

_"For the first time I felt well when I woke up this morning, apart from a little headache and belly pain."

Excerpts from Anne's diary:

May 19, 1944;

"I felt rotten yesterday. (Overgeven [en dat bij Anne!], hoofdpijn, buikpijn, wat je je maar in kunt denken.) Vomiting [and this happened to Anne!], headache, stomach ache and anything else you can imagine)."²

She at times felt isolated, anxious and depressed and took valerian root (an herb sold today as a dietary supplement that may help with sleep disorders) to help with some of these symptoms.

September 16, 1943 ;

"I've been taking valerian every day to fight the anxiety and depression, but it does not stop me from being even more miserable the next day."²

It is unimaginable to think what Anne Frank, her family and millions of other Jews went through. To be in hiding every day and afraid that you will be captured is unthinkable. I cannot imagine what a teenager, or anyone else for that matter, must have felt like going through such an atrocity like this. Anne Frank didn't want her life to be led in vain, and it certainly wasn't, she has left a legacy of history forever.


¹ Anne Frank Guide. A Timeline. January 2011,

² de Almeida, RF; Kowacs, PA. "Anne Frank's headache." Cephalalgia 2007;27,1215-1218_._ London. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2982.2007.01425.x.

³ National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Health Information. Valerian. January 2011.

⁴ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Anne Frank." Holocaust Encyclopedia. January 12, 2011.

© The HealthCentral Network, 2011 Last updated January 22, 2011