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Mood Swings: A Migraine Warning Sign

Three-year-olds have a particular state of meltdown when they’re overly tired and overly hungry. They become completely unreasonable, won’t listen to anyone’s suggestions and can’t make decisions. This describes me when a migraine is about to hit.

There are a lot of descriptions for the mood changes of migraine’s prodrome, including irritable, anxious, agitated, distracted, unfocused, confused, indecisive, sad and just plain grumpy. Even that list doesn’t convey the magnitude of these changes. It’s not just that a few of these adjectives apply to me, all of them do, and the total is way more than the sum of the parts. Hence the comparison to a hangry, exhausted three-year-old melting down.

Forget trying to have a meaningful interaction with someone. It’s not like I can hide my mood, but I don’t care what anyone else has to say about it. I don’t want to hear their opinions or suggestions, even if they’re trying to me calm down (perhaps especially then!). Add to that the frequent sighing that’s another prodrome symptom and people really think I’m angry.

Once I became aware that my meltdowns indicated an impending migraine, I started to pay attention to my moods as part of learning to listen to my body. It took some practice, but now I can (usually) avoid getting caught up in the mood swings, thus keeping it from spiraling into a (near) temper tantrum. More importantly, I now know that when a meltdown seems imminent, it’s time to take an abortive and get home as quickly as possible.

While my mood changes fall into the annoyed and sad category, other people report hyperactivity and euphoria that lead to surges in creativity and productivity. This sounds far better than what I experience, but I know the reality could be different than the perception. If the latter describes you, please leave a comment and tell us if it is really as great as it seems.

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.


  • drmaryb
    3 years ago

    I sometimes get the euphoria prodrome and it’s a mixed bag. It is sort of like being manic but doesn’t (for me) last long enough or become quite severe enough to qualify as a true manic episode. I do not generally think of myself as a moody person by temperament. I am just now coming out of the prodrome and am heading into the actual migraine. The euphoria often does feel really good – I feel profoundly spiritual and artistic. I am more inclined to buy things (especially art materials that I don’t really need) but not to the point of it being a major problem. I am usually spiritual and artistic anyway but this is exaggerated. The euphoria can sometimes be difficult to manage though. I don’t feel like going to sleep when in this euphoric state and if I need to do a more sedentary type of work, I can become so restless I can hardly stand it. Fortunately, my work is usually flexible enough to accommodate. One of the troubling things also about these states also is that, when it is over, I sometimes question, “Was this real?” In other words, were my spiritual experiences legitimate or just some type of brain shift? (I tend to think they are both…)

    Another downside is when the downside comes. When I start feeling sick, not only does the euphoria go away, but I am often left feeling a sort of “depression”. I do not generally suffer from depression (thankfully) but I will feel like I don’t care about anything. I have no energy, no desire to do anything – even live (though I do not get actively suicidal). I don’t care about art. Intellectually, I still care about my religious faith, but I feel nothing. This is a most unpleasant state.

    For the most part, I think I have learned to ride these waves, but my heart goes out to those of you who are finding it hard to bear your mood swings…

  • ChronicM
    4 years ago

    A couple years later… Is this still what you feel is true about migraines & mood swings? Ive been daily chronic for a yr… Just curious

  • Cwolf
    5 years ago

    This is a very eye opening article. I have had migraine disease since 10. One thing I have noticed is I get sad and tired. But the real difference for me is after I’ve aborted the aura and most of the pain. I get severe mood swings. I can get irritated, angry, manic, irrational and very depressed. Immediately after the phases of migraine. I always thought it was because I wasn’t feeling well. Now I know there is a lot more to this disease than currently understood about the effects of mood, behavior and brain changes.

    Thank you for this article.

  • Danielle E.
    6 years ago

    I’m a little late, but I have to post. When I saw the title of this article, I was so excited because I thought I was going crazy for awhile. I couldn’t understand why I was having these mood swings! Was it really a migraine warning sign or just another side effect from medication? Anyways, I defintely can get hangry, but about a year ago, I started experiencing hyperactivity before a migraine attack. I’m like a three year old who just downed an entire Coke! I’m happy and laughing. I’m goofy and bouncing off the walls with energy. Now, this isn’t as good has it sounds. It’s a complete manic episode that usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. I’m not productive, and I’m certainly not myself. Although, I must say, it’s probably better than my normal irritiable migraining self. The crazy thing is (no pun intended) I wasn’t even the one to first notice it – my husband was. Now, when I start acting really silly, he kindly lets me know that I’m about to get a migraine.

  • manahime1969
    6 years ago

    I’ve never really made that connection before but, now that I think about it make total sense to me. My problem or problems are I don’t drive and I can go fro a really good mood to being super irritated and grouchy and then then that is when my migraine hits. I can’t really get out of that situation as quickly as I want and need. I always travel with my medication. I never leave home without them. I also make it a practice to always wear sunglasses and a hat when ever I go out. So my question is this are there any tips on what I can do make it somewhat bearable in that situation until I can get home. and in my room where I need to be.

  • bluebird
    5 years ago

    you are so not alone!

  • Saundra
    6 years ago

    I’ve experienced both types of moody prodromes you described and combinations of all, with wide swings from one to the other. I can see how it might look a little better (the grass is greener & all…) but for me the only thing a little better is that the hyper-surges make me look slightly less crazy than having the 3 year old tantrums and maybe getting a couple things done before the crash- maybe (usually I’m so spastic, it’s just me spinning in a whirlwind). Also, The crash after the hyper usually hits me harder than the swings do.
    6 of one, half a dozen of another. It all sucks.

  • ddnben
    6 years ago

    Wow, I thought it was just me. I’ve had migraines since I was 12 and always feel like I’m someone else when these mood swings happen. I feel horrible after because my husband takes the brunt of it and I can’t figure out why I did it and then I get a migraine. It wasn’t until recently that I made the association that it was a symptom of a migraine coming on since I have never really had triggers. But this article was very time-appropriate.

  • Brian in TN
    6 years ago

    My mood swings are the worst symptom to me, I always feel like I’m about to become violent. I find that sometimes walking briskly will help cool the internal rage, but this always brings on the pain, which is actually a relief since it gets me out of the “I want to hurt someone” phase. I’ve thought about getting a hat that says “Don’t talk to me” but I work with a few jerks that would actually try to get me to flip out, so it might just be asking for trouble.

  • May 20
    6 years ago

    My second child has migraines. I’ve tracked his mood in relation to hunger, but now I’ll add migraine to the tracking, as well. Thanks.

  • migrainestl
    6 years ago

    Overall lately I’ve been noticing that I just don’t handle stress as well as I used to. Since I’m Chronic & always in some type of pain, my guess is that my body/mind is just constantly dealing with my illness that any additional stress outside of my normal activities is just too much for me to bear some days. One thing I’ve noticed recently that gives me a clue I’m about to have an increase in my pain levels is my body temperature. I tend to get the chills and feel the need to grab a jacket, socks or heating pillow to warm up.

  • Cindy McMillan
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this post. I’m glad to know that I am not alone in feeling younger than my children when I get a migraine. I’ve had migraines since I was 9. Being 32 now, it’s been a long journey. I hope you don’t mind, but I mentioned you in my blog post. Take a look, if you would like.

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