The Connection Between Migraine Headaches and Bipolar Disorder

Chronic pain is highly prevalent among individuals with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Though numerous studies have uncovered greater insight into the relationship between chronic pain and unipolar depression, less is known about the relationship between pain and bipolar disorder.

That being said, what we do know, is that a connection between bipolar disorder and the incidence of chronic pain does indeed exist.

According to an article published by The Journal of Headache and Pain, migraine headaches, in general, are an extremely common type of chronic pain.

In fact, The International Headache Society reports that migraine headaches are so significant amongst the general population, that they have a substantial impact both on the individual and on society.

Their report states that:

“While the individual impact can be measured in terms of the frequency and severity of attacks, or by using measures of quality of life, the societal impact of migraine is often measured by the economic costs associated with the condition.”

When it comes to the cost that migraine headaches can have on the lives of people living with bipolar disorder, the impact on the individual can be debilitating.

In fact, The Journal of Affective Disorders published the results of numerous studies which found the following to be true amongst people that they studied with bipolar disorder.

They found:

  • An increased initial evaluation of pain intensity was found in unipolar depression compared to bipolar depression.
  • Anxiety levels may mediate differences in the initial evaluation of pain between unipolar and bipolar depression.
  • Unique patterns of pain perception have been described in unipolar depression but not in bipolar depression.
  • Unipolar and bipolar depressed patients report excessive pain symptoms compared with healthy controls.

    The medical journal Bipolar Disorder published a case report that looked further into the connection between bipolar disorder and migraine headaches.

    The researchers found that of the patients in the study that were suffering from bipolar disorder, comorbid migraine was experienced in 24.5% of the patients.

    Amongst those diagnosed with bipolar that experienced migraines, those diagnosed specifically with bipolar 2, which can cause long periods of depression, had the highest prevalence with 34.8% of the patients experiencing the comorbid disorders.

    Furthermore, this particular research study also found that bipolar patients with comorbid migraine headaches had significantly higher rates of suicidal behavior, social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    However, not all research exploring the connection between migraine headaches and bipolar disorder has had such results.

    In our next article, we will take a look at the results of another study on the matter, and explore factors that could allow for these differing results.

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