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Picture of adult woman suffering from headache at home

Living with Headaches

Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Globally, headache disorders have been ranked as the second leading cause of years lived with a disability. Migraine headaches are one of the highest contributors to disability for people under 50 years old. In many cases, headaches can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Could your headache be an anxiety migraine?

Daily Headache Causes

Often, headaches have causes that are not related to any underlying illness. Maybe you haven’t gotten enough sleep, or maybe you’re under too much stress. Too much exposure to loud noises, an incorrect eyeglass prescription, and headwear that’s too tight can all cause a headache. The most common headache is the tension headache. If a person suffers concurrently from headaches and anxiety, it could be that the anxiety is causing the headache, and it could also be that headaches are making it harder to manage the anxiety. Both conditions can be managed, though, even if the headaches are migraine headaches.

Migraine Headaches

How are migraine headaches different than other headaches? While migraine headaches involve head pain, often behind the temples, eyes, or ears, a migraine is much more than a headache. Migraines can come with sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, and a classic migraine typically causes an aura, visual disturbances like flashing lights or diminished vision before the attack. When a migraine comes with visual disturbances, it’s called an ocular migraine. Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Studies done on patients with migraines suggest that the brains of patients with chronic migraine may be altered, compared to those who suffer from episodic migraines. People with chronic migraines are also more likely to suffer from impaired sleep, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal disorders. The exact pathophysiology of migraines is not clear, and in fact, migraines are complicated, related to a host of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Migraines manifest differently for different patients. There are theories that migraines may be linked to a pro-inflammatory and oxidative state or mitochondrial dysfunction, and migraines are often triggered by things like stress, allergens, and sensitivities. People who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines often have generalized anxiety disorder, but it is still being debated whether migraines cause anxiety or the other way around.

Migraines and Anxiety

In addition to having a connection to anxiety, migraine headaches sometimes precede mental disorders. In one study, researchers found that 11 percent of the participants had migraine and a variety of disorders, including major depression, general anxiety disorder (GAD), dysthymia, bipolar, disorder, panic attacks, substance abuse disorders, and agoraphobia. Many studies have linked GAD and panic disorder with headaches or migraines.

People with co-occurring migraines and anxiety disorder are at higher risk for major depression. In fact, the percentage of people with migraines who also experience depression is somewhere around 40 percent. Those with chronic and episodic migraines are also more likely than the general population to have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In those with major depression and an anxiety disorder, the typical pattern is that the anxiety came before the migraines, but after the depression.

Can anxiety cause migraines?

The causes of migraines are different for different people. Genetics seem to play a role, as migraines tend to run in families. It is thought that migraines are the result of abnormal brain activity that temporarily affects nerve signals and impacting chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Panic attacks and anxiety can sometimes prompt migraines, due to the heightened level of anxiety caused by the inability to function with severe anxiety. Can anxiety cause ocular migraines? Yes, anxiety can cause chronic, episodic, and ocular migraines.

Can migraines cause anxiety?

Some doctors believe that frequent migraines can lead to an anxiety disorder. Being in continual pain, not being able to sleep, and experiencing oversensitivity to one’s surroundings can lead to feelings of anxiety. Additionally, symptoms associated with migraines, like nausea, can cause people to experience anxiety.

Managing Migraine Headaches and Anxiety

To avoid migraines, get enough sleep, eat a nutrient-dense diet, and drink plenty of water. Keep track of your migraines, to determine your triggers, and whether they’re connected to anxiety. If you cannot find relief on your own, talk to your doctor. Doctors treating people with co-occurring anxiety disorder and chronic migraines face challenges, but it’s important to keep trying until you find a solution. Your doctor may recommend a medication that treats both anxiety disorder and headache pain, monitoring the side effects closely, and may recommend therapy. For those who have migraines and PTSD, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered helpful.

Treating the Whole Person

With functional medicine, migraines and anxiety are treated holistically, with non-invasive, natural methods including lifestyle changes, supplements, and mind-body practices. If this seems like the path you would like to take manage your migraines and anxiety, contact Advanced Functional Medicine, where we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.