According to the recent JAMA Pediatrics publication of a systematic review of 80 studies, children with migraines have a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The researchers found a link between anxiety symptoms and migraine. They concluded that migraine-prone children are likelier than children who do not suffer from migraines to experience anxiety or depressive disorders. The researchers wrote that they were unsure if depressive or anxiety symptoms affected migraine outcomes or incidence.
WebMD defines migraines as “neurologic conditions that often result in severe headaches.” It can be episodic and include vomiting, nausea, and light sensitivity. Around 5% of children with migraines are under the age of four.
ADHD and Migraine: A Connection
The researchers did not collect information on co-existing disorders like ADHD. A population-based study published in 2020 by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that ADHD kids are more susceptible to migraines. Migraines may be directly related to ADHD. 2
Sarah Cheyette, M.D., is a pediatric neurologist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Northern California. She stated that “Headaches and migraines seem to trigger ADHD.” According to researchers, headaches and ADHD are biologically related. The shared pathophysiological mechanism could also be linked to dopaminergic dysregulation.
Although the cause of ADHD headaches is still unclear, she said patients with ADHD suffer from undue pain and stress when trying to control their symptoms.
LifeNator reader panelists were asked whether their ADHD children experience migraines. 16% responded positively. According to a study in Brain and Development published in 2018, migraine was reported in 26% (of ADHD) patients aged 6-18 and 10% in healthy controls.
Indiana Reader panelist: “My daughter sometimes gets auras but always feels nausea or dizziness.” I hate to see my daughter in such pain.
A Californian parent writes, “This is terrible.” A pediatrician told him that at five, he may have had migraines. He missed 35 school days in third grade. In fourth grade, his school days are reduced due to migraines. Also, he has POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). We are in a terrible situation because he is suffering, and there’s no treatment yet.
A parent reported that her daughter had missed class due to migraines. She suffers from nausea, vomiting, and headaches. In addition, she is irritable, tired, and sensitive to sound, light, and other stimuli.
Treatment for ADHD with Migraine and Tandem
While ADHD and migraines can be comorbid, few doctors consider the link between them in treating their patients. Cheyette said medical professionals disregard this connection to the patient’s detriment. When providers treat these disorders holistically and recognize their links, they improve healthcare quality. Patients become more productive.
A parent in South Carolina said, “Our son (15 years old) began experiencing migraines around a year after puberty.” His symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, and irritability. He was prescribed vitamin B2 and magnesium by his pediatric neurologist, which helped him immensely.
We first noticed migraines as stomachaches when our children were 6 or 7. Doctors diagnosed abdominal headaches. According to a Pennsylvania parent, the symptoms matched what their children had experienced. Today, the main symptoms of a 14-year-old are nausea, headache, and a brief loss of vision.
Researchers behind this meta-analysis suggest that doctors regularly screen migrainetic children and teens for anxiety or depression. LifeNator surveyed 1,187 caregivers in 2022 and found that ADHD often accompanies stress (67%) and depression (46%) among teens.
The researchers wrote, “These results have important implications for clinical practice and underline how crucial it is to screen children suffering from migraines for depression or anxiety.” Researchers should continue to investigate these issues and determine whether trauma and stressors are linked with symptoms and disorders of migraine among adolescents and children.