A new survey looks at the impact of migraine and mental health and how patients and doctors can overcome their challenges together.

Migraine and mental health are often referred to as “invisible” diseases. Because they aren’t always easy to spot, a stigma surrounds them. So, how can we address the stigma of both migraine and mental health disorders?

To learn more about migraine and its impact on mental health, the American Migraine Foundation (AMF), with support from Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, distributed the Migraine and Mental Health Connection Survey. 1,100 respondents with migraine who also identify as having a mental health condition and 302 healthcare providers participated in the survey.

The survey found that most healthcare professionals and people with migraine strongly believe that migraine and mental health significantly impact each other. Read on to learn how the survey provided the unique perspectives of patients and doctors—and how we can take these findings to create better outcomes for people living with migraine and mental health.

Conversations About Migraine and Mental Health

A good patient-doctor relationship is one of the most important steps to improving migraine and mental health care. The survey found that more than two-thirds of patients with migraine think it is important to discuss mental health with the provider treating their migraine. Open and honest conversation is key to making sure the patient and doctor are aligned. But it can be easier said than done.

The stigma that surrounds migraine and mental health can make those with migraine feel like they are not being heard. As a result, patients may hesitate to share their experiences or fully open up about their mental health struggles.

To make patients feel comfortable sharing their conditions, doctors are encouraged to be more proactive in starting the conversation. According to the survey, nearly 60% of people with migraine who discuss mental health with their doctor start the conversation. However, a majority of those patients (75%) wish their doctor would initiate the discussion. To better understand each other, patients and doctors must communicate openly to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment are delivered.

Common Ground Between Patients and Providers

Patients and doctors face the same issue: the impact that migraine and mental health have on each other. According to the survey, 87% of patients with migraine and 94% of healthcare providers agree that mental health would greatly improve from better migraine control. Here is a resource to help you talk to your doctor about migraine.

When you live with a disease that affects your life in big ways, it is natural and understandable to feel sad, frustrated or even angry about your condition. The unpredictability, disabling nature and pain of migraine can contribute to depression and anxiety, which can, in turn, make migraine worse. This causes a “vicious cycle” between migraine and mental health.

The survey also found nearly all patients with migraine feel it is equally important to treat migraine and mental health and want their doctor to prioritize both in their treatment plan.

Fortunately, many treatments for depression and anxiety can also help treat migraine. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and relaxation therapy are effective ways to treat depression, anxiety and migraine.

This survey provided helpful information on the impact of migraine and mental health, as well as the way the two are discussed between patients and their doctors. These findings will help AMF continue to look for ways to advocate for patients and ensure they get the care they need. There are resources and patient guides available on the AMF website to help patients learn more about migraine and how to share their experiences with doctors. Let’s break barriers together.

Learn more by reading the Migraine and Mental Health Survey Infographic.

The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.

Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.