Mental Health

Mental Health and Headaches

Depression, anxiety and panic disorder, and bipolar disorder all occur more commonly in migraine sufferers than in the general population. In fact, a constellation of depression, anxiety and migraine has been found in a subset of migraineurs. Some studies suggest that bipolar disorder may be even more strongly associated with migraine than with depression.

There is emerging evidence that early childhood abuse or neglect can affect migraine sufferers as well, and there may be an association between PTSD and migraine or chronic headache. In women with chronic migraine, 42% were found to have had some form of childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Correlations have also been found between PTSD and migraine in returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, even in the absence of head injury. (Naturally PTSD and blast injury only further compound the resultant headaches.)


1. Afari N, Harder LH, Madra NJ, et al. PTSD, combat injury, and headache in Veterans Returning from Iraq/Afghanistan. Headache. 2009;49(9):1267-1276. Available at:
2. Peterlin BL, Tietjen GE, Brandes JL, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder in migraine. Headache. 2009;49(4):541-551. Available at:
3. Peterlin BL. Post-traumatic stress disorder in migraine: further comments. Headache. 2009;49(5):787. Available at:
4. Peterlin BL, Tietjen G, Meng S, Lidicker J, Bigal M. Post-traumatic stress disorder in episodic and chronic migraine. Headache. 2008;48(4):517-522. Available at:
5. Ruff RL, Ruff SS, Wang X. Headaches among Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veterans with mild traumatic brain injury associated with exposures to explosions. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2008;45(7):941-952. Available at:
by Christina Peterson, MD
updated Feb 7, 2010