The Link Between Migraines and Panic Attacks

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Headaches are often described as pain or discomfort in any part of the head. The pain caused by headaches often varies for different people.

Some people report feeling severe discomfort in the back of the head, others may complain about pain in the eyes, and some may feel the headache all throughout their head. Regardless of how the pain is experienced, frequent headaches can really interfere with your life.

Types of Headaches

Depending on symptoms and severity, most headaches can be categorized into two main types: tension headaches or migraines, although there may be some overlap between the two.

Tension Headache
  • The most common type of headache

  • Muscle tension throughout the head, neck, and shoulders

  • Pain felt throughout the head

Migraine Headache
  • Discomfort on one side of the head and pressure behind one or both eyes

  • Sensitive to smells, noises, and light

  • Nausea and vomiting

Migraines may occur with an aura, which are sensory disturbances that happen before the impending migraine. For example, a person may see spots or feel a tingling on one side of the body shortly before a migraine headache occurs.

Headaches and Panic Disorder

Most people experience headaches from time to time. However, research has shown that people diagnosed with panic disorder and other anxiety disorders are more likely to experience frequent headaches than the general population.

Many people with panic disorder will experience a headache right after having a panic attack.

Those with panic disorder have been found to suffer from more severe headaches and migraines. Research has also indicated that there are certain risk factors that influence the occurrence of panic disorder and headaches.

For instance, the incidences of headaches and migraines have been found to be even higher among female panic disorder sufferers. Those who have a co-occurring diagnosis of agoraphobia and/or depression also experience more frequent headaches and migraines.

What You Can Do

If you are experiencing a lot of headaches or migraines in addition to your panic disorder symptoms, discuss these issues with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to rule out any potentially serious medical conditions that may be contributing to your headaches.

Treatment options for panic disorder and the co-occurring headaches may also be available. Some medications that are prescribed for panic disorder have been shown to effectively treat co-occurring headaches.

On the other hand, your medication may actually be contributing to your headaches. Your doctor may need to determine if your medication for panic disorder is actually causing your headaches.

Additionally, your doctor will create a treatment plan to help you manage both your headaches and panic disorder symptoms. Headaches and migraines are common issues among panic disorder sufferers. Fortunately, your doctor will be able to help you treat and manage both conditions.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ahmed F. Headache disorders: differentiating and managing the common subtypesBr J Pain. 2012;6(3):124-132. doi:10.1177/2049463712459691

  2. Mehlsteibl D, Schankin C, Hering P, Sostak P, Straube A. Anxiety disorders in headache patients in a specialised clinic: prevalence and symptoms in comparison to patients in a general neurological clinic. J Headache Pain. 2011;12(3):323-9. doi:10.1007%2Fs10194-011-0293-9

  3. Antonaci F, Nappi G, Galli F, Manzoni G, Calabresi P, Costa A. Migraine and psychiatric comorbidity: a review of clinical findings. J Headache Pain. 2011;12(2):115-25. doi:10.1007%2Fs10194-010-0282-4

Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. 2000 Washington, DC.

  • Berk, M., Fritz, V. U., & Schofield, G. “Patterns of Headache in Panic Disorder: A Survey of Members of the South African Panic Disorder Support Group” 2004 South African Psychiatry Review, 7, 28-30.

  • Senaratne, R., Van Ameringen, M., Mancini, C., Patterson, B., Bennett, M. “The Prevalence of Migraine Headaches in an Anxiety Disorders Clinic Sample” 2010 CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 16(2), 76-82.

  • Yamada, K., Moriwaki, K., Oiso, H., & Ishigooka, J. “High Prevalence of Comorbidity of Migraine in Outpatients With Panic Disorder and Effectiveness of Psychopharmacotherapy for Both Disorders: A Retrospective Open Label study” 2011 Psychiatry Research, 185(1-2), 145-148.

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.