Vestibular Migraine Linked to Increased Anxiety, Say Researchers
The link between anxiety and migraine disease is well established. Those of us with migraine experience anxiety disorders at two to five times the rate of people without migraine, and about 50% of us live with comorbid anxiety. Those of us whose symptoms include vertigo, however, may be the most affected, according to new research.
A study released in March compared 35 participants with confirmed Vestibular Migraine, 31 participants with migraine without symptoms of vertigo, and 32 volunteer controls with no history of migraine. Using a variety of assessments, the researchers measured each participant’s levels of anxiety, panic, and depression. There were no significant differences between the participants in terms of age or education, and no significant difference in headache duration between the two migraine groups.
Anxiety and agoraphobia
However, there were significant differences in anxiety levels. According to the study, the Vestibular Migraine participants experienced significantly higher levels of anxiety and agoraphobia than either of the other two groups. Symptoms of vertigo also were linked with more severe headaches.
Granted, this was only one study, and one with a small sample size at that. However, as someone who regularly experiences severe, disabling vertigo, this makes sense to me. I live in Texas, where a car is needed to go just about anywhere. I rarely leave my house without experiencing some level of anxiety about suddenly becoming too sick to drive back home.
I also get anxious about professional outings. Am I going to stumble or fall over during a meeting? Will I crash into the wall or a table? Is a client or boss going to think I’m drunk?
I’ve coped with my anxiety by taking advantage of home delivery services, including fresh meat from a butcher, fresh vegetables from a local farm, and boxed items and household goods from Amazon Prime. My teenage daughter takes the bus to and from school, and my husband picks up my son from preschool whenever his work schedule allows. I also avoid in-person meetings as much as possible, preferring to use Skype, Facebook, Google Hangouts, or Uber conference calls.
Still, I can’t avoid leaving the house entirely, nor would I want to do so. I love being outside. I love interacting with people and exploring new places. Due to my vertigo, and the anxiety surrounding it, however, I do these things rarely and generally only if I have a backup driver.
Complementary and alternative medicine options
I often think of relocating somewhere with better public transportation options so I could feel freer to leave the house (and safer when I did.) Unfortunately, that is not an option for my family at this time, so I wait and I use the methods available to me to cope with both my chronic migraine and its associated symptom of vertigo.
I meditate. I practice yoga and cognitive behavioral therapy. I see a psychiatrist in addition to my neurologist and my pain management doctor, and I approach falls, tumbles, and crashes with as much humor as possible.
I think that’s all any of us can do. And, thanks to this study, I now feel just a little less alone. I hope others with vertigo do as well.
Have you shared your migraine story with us yet?