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Comorbidities: Anxiety

Just as with depression, anxiety is commonly associated with migraine attacks. Researchers have observed a higher prevalence of this condition in the migraine population than the non-migraine population.

There is such a strong comorbid relationship between anxiety and migraine that some researchers believe it is a stronger correlation than between depression and migraine disease.

Anxiety is characterized as a state of worry or fear that can range from mild to extremely debilitating and that is manifested through physical reactions to this worry and fear. Anxiety becomes problematic when an individual’s reaction is out of proportion to the situation and interferes with his or her ability to do the things he or she needs and wants to do in life.

In a 2004 study researchers reported finding a significant correlation between anxiety disorders and migraine disease. In that study 9.1% of migraineurs experienced anxiety, while only 2.5% of the non-migraine population did. Even after researchers adjusted for other variables, including other common pain conditions such as back pain and arthritis, migraine’s correlation with anxiety was more significant.

In another research study of young adults, the greatest correlation between anxiety and migraine were for two specific types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia.

The important takeaway about the relationship between these two conditions is the point that appropriate treatment of one condition is often helpful to the improvement of the other condition. As with depression and migraine disease, anxiety and migraine have a relationship in which worsening of one condition can lead to worsening of the other condition and round and round.

Anxiety is often successfully treated with psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based therapy. Relaxation techniques, exercise and stress management strategies can also be incredibly helpful.

References: Psychiatric Comorbidity of Migraine: Migraine& Anxiety Disorders — > What is Anxiety? A Guide to Anxiety

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ronan
    2 years ago

    A level of anxiety is normal for us. Anxiety keeps us out of harms way and alerts us to danger. Think it’s called the reptilian brain, the most instinctual part of our brain. I know for myself I tend to have a lot of anxiety the day before the pain starts. My body’s warning system.

    It makes sense when I understood that a migraine attack can put me in the fight or flight mode. A migraine is dangerous to my body and the instinctual response to danger is to have an anxiety attack.

    Remind me of this when I am in the middle of anxiety or a migraine attack.

  • kathy-phelan-delaurodelauro
    6 years ago

    Will pass this on to my sister..She gets that way, especially lately. Thanks for posting. I don’t, but never say never!

  • body
    7 years ago

    Good article, Diane. Migraine and anxiety are both believed to be associated with low serotonin levels. Chronic stress can add to the decrease in serotonin levels. Integrative therapies like deep breathing techniques, meditation, mind-body exercises like tai-chi, yoga, moderate exercises like walking, reflexology and energy healing techniques such as Reiki and healing touch are thought to increase serotonin levels and may help with both.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hi devorahvan,

    Always follow your gut on situations like these, I know I do. I’m not sure that anxiety necessarily “triggers” a migraine, but people with migraine disease may also experience anxiety and it can certainly make everything worse. Treating anxiety is helpful on many levels.

  • deborahvan-der-harst
    7 years ago

    I have had two anxiety provoking event happen very close together in the past few months. The first happened when I let a maintenance man into my condo to fix a wall pipe. My instinct told me he was dangerous and I was correct. Less than a week later I found out he had assaulted someone else in the the building twice is now being charged for it. During that time I experienced what I knew was an anxiety induced migraine. Until then, I hadn’t known that anxiety was a trigger for me. A few weeks later I had to end my relationship with my therapist. I felt like I was walking on a tightrope without a net. I experienced another anxiety induced migraine. The anxiety induced migraines are different from the regular migraines. They are very localized in a fairly small spot always on the right side of my head and no medication touches the pain. It takes many months from them to subside. They suck the life out of me. In fact, even my neurologist has had difficulty treating them. I am going to put in a call to him today however, since I am starting to become depressed.

  • alig0118
    8 years ago

    My anxiety has skyrocketed since I began having migraines every day. I worry about getting a migraine, how severe it will be, and how I am going to control it. I do see a therapist and am working with my neurologist to find something that will help decrease the migraines.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    I half-hated reading this article because of the fact it hit too close to home with me. I’ve been practically a shut-in of late. I’m very fearful of driving, with chronic migraines, cervical dystonia, and spinal stenosis, my head movement is compromised. Last two times I went out – one time I had to have someone back my car out of a parking space for me, and the other I almost hit a fence – and before that I nearly collided with a truck I didn’t see coming from the left because I didn’t turn my head enough to see it. The thing is the longer I stay home the harder it is for me to go out. I’m afraid I’m becoming too comfortable staying in the house.

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