Exploring the Prevalence of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Adults with Migraine

Researchers at the University of Toronto have shown that generalized anxiety disorder is more common among adults who have migraines than those without migraine (6% vs. 2%). The link between migraine and generalized anxiety disorders was partially explained by the high prevalence of debilitating chronic pain (30%) and problems in managing household responsibilities (28%) among those with migraine. The researchers were not surprised chronic pain played a role in the association between migraines and generalized anxiety disorders. The unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of migraine pain can be anxiety producing as it can interfere with family and work responsibilities without warning.

The study found men with migraine had almost double the odds of generalized anxiety disorder compared with women with migraine. The researchers found this result to be surprising because in the general population, women are more likely than men to develop generalized anxiety disorder. The researchers speculated that this could be because men are less likely than women to take medication to treat their migraine and the disorder may be more painful and less controllable which can result in anxiety.

The researchers also found that migraineurs who did not have a confidant had five times the odds of generalized anxiety disorder compared to those with at least one person to confide in. This indicates that social support plays an important protective role in the mental health consequences of chronic pain disorders. The researchers feel that men with migraines, who experience chronic and debilitating pain, who struggle to cope with their daily responsibilities and those who are socially isolated should be monitored particularly closely by healthcare professionals.

From this study it would seem that men who experience migraine should try to find someone to talk to on occasion, should have a medication to take if needed when migraine occurs, and should try to find ways to not be as socially isolated if they live alone. Filling out a questionnaire to get you started with online therapy, such as that offered at https://www.betterhelp.com/start/, may be an option to help those suffering from migraine and generalized anxiety disorder.


Esme Fuller-Thomson, Janany Jayanthikumar, Senyo K. Agbeyaka. Untangling the Association Between Migraine, Pain, and Anxiety: Examining Migraine and Generalized Anxiety Disorders in a Canadian Population Based Study. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2017; 57 (3).

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