The relationship between common physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and psychological distress has been explored in a number of studies. It has been shown that medically unexplained symptoms over a patient’s lifetime have a linear correlation with psychological factors, such as the number of anxiety and depressive disorders experienced.

A study conducted this year showed that generalised anxiety disorder is more common among adults who suffer from migraines. Mediators that explained the link between migraine and generalised anxiety disorder were debilitating pain and limitations in activities of daily living.

In addition, the researchers also found that men with migraines had nearly double the odds of generalised anxiety disorder, as compared with women with migraines. The study was conducted by Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, the Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in Social Work at the University of Toronto, together with other researchers.

The correlation between migraine, anxiety and patients’ quality of life

Stephanie M. Llop, from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, together with several other researchers, found that migraine patients with interictal photophobia were more likely to manifest symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study was published in 2016.

Another observation made in the study was that subjects suffering from migraine with interictal photophobia are more likely to report sleep problems. Findings from this study might pave the way for future research to assess if the treatment of photophobia can lead to improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms, particularly in migraine patients.

Additionally, a review that was published in 2012 aimed to find out the relevance of psychosocial difficulties to patients with migraine. Alberto Raggi, who specialises in neurology, together with a team of researchers, found that individuals suffering from migraine experience various conditions that can affect their quality of life.

These included emotional problems, reduced vitality, pain, increased disability, work difficulties, mental and physical health as well as social functioning. Anxiety and depressive mood are two of the most commonly addressed psychosocial difficulties (6.9% each). There was also evidence that a fall in headache frequency, as well as complementary and/or alternative treatments have a positive effect on anxiety and mood.

Dizziness and balance disorders are also contributing factors

The comorbidity of migraine and anxiety was also apparent when these two conditions are often present among patients with dizziness and balance disorders. Researchers have proposed the term migraine-anxiety related dizziness (MARD), a condition in which patients with dizziness suffer a combination of a balance disorder, migraine, and an anxiety disorder.

Furthermore, in a study conducted between 1988 and 1996, researchers found that among patients with both migraine and anxiety, 75% of them had enduring migraines and anxiety eight years later. On the other hand, among those without anxiety, only 30% had enduring migraines. This study was conducted by Vincenzo Guidetti, who specialises in neuropsychiatry, together with several other researchers.

Recognising the relationship between migraine, anxiety and other psychological conditions is an important step towards improving diagnosis and implementing proper treatment. It helps patients to make the most of their medical visits, as the quality of healthcare services provided is improved. MIMS

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