2020 Mental Health x Migraine Survey: What We Know
Just last week, it was the World Mental Health Day on 10 October—an occasion for everyone, no matter where you come from or what you do, to raise awareness about something that is as important as our physical health: mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, almost one billion people are struggling with a mental disorder . Even though it can affect anyone anywhere in the world, there remains a significant gap between the demand for and the supply of mental health services. It is estimated that “countries spend less than 2% of their national health budgets on mental health” .
Mental health issues are especially prevalent among communities with co-existing conditions such as migraine, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic illnesses. Clinical studies revealed that depression is almost twice more common in people with migraine than in those unaffected by migraine .
In a 2019 survey, we asked 14,500 Migraine Buddy users about their existing secondary health conditions. We learned that mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are the most common types of secondary health conditions, affecting over 65% of respondents.
In light of World Mental Health Day 2020, we revisited this subject with a new survey to get insights on how Migraine Buddy users have been managing their mental health conditions alongside their migraine!
Here are 5 observations from our survey that we would like to share:
 Depression is the most common mental health condition in the Migraine Buddy community.
This observation is in line with other scientific studies where the results indicated a high occurrence of depression among the migraine community at large [3-6].
63% of Migraine Buddy users experience more than one mental disorder—this is generally known as comorbidity or co-occurring conditions, where an individual experiences more than a single health condition at the same time .
 Half of the community feels that there is a strong correlation between their mental health and migraine.
Among this group of users who felt the strong correlation, depression (73%) and generalized anxiety disorder (56%) were the most common mental disorders. Here, it is important to keep in mind the influence of comorbidities!
 Most users (90%) of Migraine Buddy are currently taking medications to manage either their migraine, mental disorder, or both.
 People who take medications for both migraine and mental disorders generally reported positive results from their treatment!
46% of them shared that there were improvements in both migraine and mental health.
Even though migraine days were not lesser, 26% of users felt better about their mental health!
This is a significant food for thought—some medications are usually prescribed for mental health conditions but are now more frequently used in migraine management as well .
An example of such medication would be Amitriptyline which is an anti-depressant that is also used in the treatment of pain. As with all medications, always remember to consult your doctor to assess your suitability for such treatment!
 “Migraine days”, or “headache days”, is generally understood as the number of days in a month where one has experienced headaches. There are some significant associations between the number of headache days and the mental disorder diagnosed, as outlined below:
Episodic migraine is indicated by 0 to 14 headache days per month while chronic migraine is specified as having 15 or more headache days in a month .
Depression and generalized anxiety disorder are the most prevalent mental health conditions across all the ranges of headache days—corresponding to similar patterns in the general migraine community [2-7, 9-11].
(Scroll to see detailed graph)
28% of respondents who have at least depression are likely to experience either 4-7 headache days or more than 15 headache days. A similar inference can also be made from the results for generalized anxiety disorder.
For the following conditions, we observed a general upward trend across the ranges of headache days: ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, social anxiety.
In particular, a disproportionate number of migraine warriors who are diagnosed with at least bipolar disorder have an average of more than 15 migraine days.
Migraine Buddy users with PTSD are more likely to be experiencing >15 migraine days per month.
This finding supports existing literature where researchers noted that PTSD was more common in people with chronic migraine than episodic migraine [12-13].
Despite substantial studies on this topic, scientists are still not able to pinpoint the exact dynamics between migraine and mental disorders. Especially for chronic migraine warriors, it is even more challenging to understand the nature of their conditions—does social anxiety result in more migraine days, or do long periods of migraine pain aggravate one’s social anxiety? We certainly hope that the insights from this short survey can spark more conversations and lead to more research efforts!
Awareness is the first step towards a more inclusive society and we can all do our part to be kinder to each other. Mental health conditions are real and everyone should be able to seek help when it is needed. Let’s look forward to better days together! ?
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