Anxiety And Migraine: 5 Steps To Deal With Them Both

Written and verified by Holly Hazen

Along with stress and depression, anxiety and migraine often are associated. In fact, some physicians today believe that the comorbid relationship between the two is even stronger than the association between migraine and depression. For me, each attack is preceded by a definite and noticeable rise in anxiety. Does this mean I have an anxiety disorder? No. Not really. But it does linger and occur between attacks too. I often find myself worrying about the next attack.

If you are dealing with migraine and anxiety, it is important to understand each condition, the importance of treating both conditions and the important steps to help reduce anxiety and migraine frequency. Let's talk about the connection and what you can do to help reduce both.

Anxiety and Migraine. The Importance of Treating Both Conditions @migrainesavvyThe Importance of Treating Both Conditions @migrainesavvy

What is Anxiety?

First, it’s important to understand anxiety. Some people think that anxiety and stress is the same thing, but anxiety is very different. Anxiety is basically defined as a state of fear or worry. In some individuals, that state of fear or worry may be mild, but other individuals may worry so much that they live in a constant state of fear that is debilitating. 

A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

~ Oxford Languages Dictionary

The feeling of fear, worry, dread, and uneasiness are often manifested through physical symptoms. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat.

While some anxiety is common, it does become an issue if anxiety is so bad that it begins to interfere with your ability to live your life.

Anxiety and Migraine – The Connection

What is the connection between anxiety and migraine headaches? Studies have shown that migraine disease and anxiety disorders often go together. A significant percentage of migraine sufferers experience anxiety, as compared to a much smaller percentage of individuals that do not suffer from migraines. Other studies have shown that social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder both have a great correlation with migraines. 

Studies have also noted that migraine attacks may precede the beginning of certain mental disorders, including general anxiety disorder. Another important observation is that individuals that deal with anxiety and migraine headaches are more likely to experience depression as well.

The Importance of Treating Both Conditions

Although physicians may find it challenging to treat your migraines and your anxiety disorder at the same time, it is important that both conditions be treated. Properly treating anxiety can help improve migraines, while properly treating migraines can help reduce anxiety. When one condition is not properly treated, both conditions may get worse, causing a cyclic effect that is difficult to break.

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Here are 5 steps to help reduce anxiety and migraine frequency @migrainesavvyHere are 5 steps to help reduce anxiety and migraine frequency @migrainesavvy

Steps to Reduce Anxiety and Migraine Frequency

If you are suffering from anxiety and migraine headaches, some steps may be taken to reduce your anxiety, as well as migraine frequency. Here are several options to consider.

Step #1 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most successful treatments for anxiety. Undergoing this treatment for anxiety may also help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks caused by anxiety.

I've written more about that here - CBT Your Migraines

Step #2 – Find Support

Finding support is another step you can take to deal with anxiety and migraine headaches. When you feel anxious, you should talk to a professional counsellor, a friend, family member or a support group. Simply talking about your anxious feelings may be a huge help for both conditions.

Step #3 – Use Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation and tai chi, can help treat anxiety and migraine. By using any of these techniques to relax, it will reduce anxiety which can result in preventing future migraine attacks.

Step #4 – Get Enough Sleep

Anxiety often interferes with your sleep cycle, and inadequate sleep may make your anxiety even worse. Lack of sleep also is a trigger for migraine for many of us. Focus on getting enough sleep to help treat both disorders. Using relaxation techniques before bed can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Step #5 – Make Time for Laughter

Last (but not least), you should make some time for laughter EVERY DAY. Laughter can help reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins. "Your body releases endorphins naturally in response to pain or stress, but also during other activities like eating, exercising, or having sex. These natural pain relievers are produced by your pituitary gland and other parts of your body, and they act on the opiate receptors in your brain." [5]

Endorphins are the hormones responsible to make you feel happier and they help relieve pain. WIN WIN! So, find funny books, movies or video's on YouTube to help you laugh. This will reduce anxiety and cause the ripple effect to hopefully help reduce the frequency of your attacks as well. If this is a trigger for you, you might just have some great results. So give it a try and let me know how you go!

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