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Can Anxiety Cause Migraine Headaches?

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Do you have Anxiety? Do you suffer from Migraines? Both? Ever wonder if the two are related or can anxiety cause migraine headaches? Then this article is for you!

The two are interlinked in the sense that Anxiety can cause Migraines, but just the same, Migraines can also cause Anxiety. ScienceDaily reports that in October 2017, a study was done consisting of 588 patients and a definite link was established as those patients who had anxiety and depression frequented significantly more migraines than the ones who didn’t have these disorders. Read the full report:

Wiley. “Anxiety and depression linked to migraines.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 October 2017.

Can Anxiety Cause Migraine Headaches Or Vice Versa?

As you’ve already read above, the answer to can anxiety cause migraine headaches is a resounding yes! Your Migraines can also be the cause of Anxiety to you, so another yes! Over the next few paragraphs, we will take a look at how anxiety can cause migraines and also how migraines can cause anxiety. We’ll take you through some of the stages, symptoms, and treatments for this condition and hope to leave you with a thorough understanding of the two conditions and how they are related. Feel free to share your own experiences and tips with us in the comments below!

Anxiety and Migraine Cycle

What is Anxiety? A Quick Overview

Anxiety is a general term for a bunch of related disorders that cause you to be in a constant state of worry, fear or nervousness. The most common ones are known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder.

Symptoms and severity of the anxiety disorder is experienced in different ways by different people. Each individual is unique and external environmental factors can also play a role in the onset or severity of these conditions.

There is no cure, but there are many ways to combat the symptoms effectively, allowing you to live a generally anxiety free life. For a more in-depth look at what Anxiety is, be sure to read our article: Anxiety Explained – A Comprehensive Breakdown.

What is a Migraine Headache?

Migraines are intense, throbbing headaches usually localized to one side of the head and is felt mostly behind the eyes, ears or temples. It is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea or sensory changes.

In 10% of migraine cases, people will also experience an aura. When you experience an aura, you may have difficulty speaking, problems with your vision or even difficulty with movement, and starts before the actual migraine attack. About 50% of people also experience nausea as part of their symptoms.

You will never know how long your attack will last as it is known to last anything from a few hours to a few days!

The 4 Stages of a Migraine

Migraines often go through the following 4 stages:

  1. Prodrome – You may notice these a few days before the onset of a migraine. Symptoms include neck stiffness, excessive yawning, moodiness and food, and drink cravings.
  2. Aura – This may happen before and during a migraine. Symptoms include visual disturbances, problems with speech and sensory and motor difficulties. You may also feel weak and drained.
  3. Attack – If left untreated, the migraine can last a number of days. Symptoms include throbbing pain localized to one side and sometimes both sides of the head, nausea, vomiting, the symptoms of the aura and lightheadedness.
  4. Post-drome – This occurs after the attack. You will probably feel very drained and weak, although some people feel euphoric and elated. You could experience moodiness, confusion, lightheadedness and sensory sensitivity.

Migraine and Anxiety


The Relation Between Anxiety and Migraine Headaches

Although it’s not totally clear how they’re related, many studies have linked migraines to anxiety, depression and other mental disorders and are very common in people who suffer from these disorders. When co-occurring with anxiety and depression, the order is usually as follows: Depression –> Anxiety –> Migraines OR Anxiety –> Migraines –> Depression.

One theory on WebMD gives a possible explanation for the co-occurrence: When you get a migraine the cells in your brain get more active and your serotonin levels may change, which may then lead to depression or anxiety.

If you’re a woman, it may also be caused due to hormone changes during different life cycles.

Acute and Preventive Treatments

Thankfully, there are treatments available that will help you to combat migraines. Sometimes, medications used to treat other conditions will also help with your migraines. Treatment generally falls into two categories – acute (as the attack happens), or preventive (to stop the attack from happening).

Acute Treatments for Migraine Headaches

In a very recent 2018 study, researchers found that early use of migraine-specific medications provided the most favorable results. The clinical group consisted of 835 migraine-suffering adults. They were divided into three groups and medicated as follows:

The first group received aspirin and metoclopramide for all attacks and if they didn’t respond to the medication within 2 hours, they were given zolmitriptan.

The second group also initially received aspirin and metoclopramide and if they didn’t respond to it within any 2 of the first 3 attacks, they were then also given zolmitriptan for 3 more attacks.

In the third group, those with mild symptoms were given aspirin and metoclopramide and those with more severe symptoms were given zolmitriptan.

The second and third groups had much better outcomes compared to the first, thus the earlier your migraine is treated, the better!

Acute treatments include triptans, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), ergots, and simple analgesics.

Preventive Treatments for Migraine Headaches

Preventive treatments are used to stop the onset of migraines. These treatments can take up to three months before taking effect. Please remember this and don’t overuse medication as it will only make your condition harder to treat.

Sometimes, the medications prescribed in this category is used to mainly treat another condition such as high blood pressure or depression.

At first, you will start with a lower dosage which will gradually be increased, as advised by your doctor, as needed.

Some medications may include anti-epileptic drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

Natural Treatments for Migraine Headaches That Also Help For Anxiety

Lavender Oil

Studies have shown that inhalation of Lavender oil during a migraine attack will significantly help improve the symptoms experienced during the attack. You can also dilute it with water and apply it to your temples for the same effects.

Lavender has also long been used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and is known for its calming and relaxing effects on the senses and the body.

Peppermint Oil
Peppermint Leaves

Peppermint’s active ingredient is menthol and studies have found that the application of menthol to the forehead or temples will help prevent the onset of a migraine. It is also known to help with the nausea and vomiting that commonly goes along with migraines.

This herb, especially in oil form, will help to calm your nerves, clear mental fatigue and relax your muscles, hence it’s great to use in combination with lavender as a treatment for both your anxiety and migraines.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B-2, especially, has been known to help prevent migraines. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 also play important roles in this aspect.

Because B vitamins affect brain and nervous center health and a deficiency thereof may cause increased feelings of anxiety and stress. Don’t overdo it though, as taking too much may cause an increase in anxious feelings.


The benefits of exercise are almost countless, and yes, it includes helping with your migraine! Studies have shown it to be just as effective as medication for prevention of migraines. This is because when you exercise, your body releases endorphins and they act as the body’s natural painkillers.

Exercise helps to reduce tension, promotes better sleep and is a good form of stress relief, making it very anxiety-friendly as well!

Binaural Beats

These beats trick your brain into hearing another note as two different notes are played in each ear. Binaural beats have proven effective in the relief of migraines, anxiety, and stress. Why not try it for yourself? Put your earphones on and relax somewhere comfortable where you won’t be disturbed. Then listen to the below video. Let us know if you enjoyed the experience!

Do you suffer from migraines? What other treatments and remedies have you tried? Feel free to share your experiences with us in the comment section! Can anxiety cause migraine headaches? What do you think?

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