The ADHD – Migraine Connection

3 people crowd around a laptop
Migraines can be triggered by stress and many other things.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD), then you know that managing the condition presents its own unique challenges. What you may not have realized, however, is that those living with ADHD are also at an increased risk for experiencing migraines.

While scientists have yet to determine the exact nature of the relationship between ADHD and migraines, there appear to be several viable possibilities, from hormones to genetics to the existence of an underlying sleep disorder that may precipitate both conditions.

This article examines the connection between ADHD and migraine, and provides strategies for minimizing their impact on your life.

The Link Between ADHD, Migraine, Stress, Sleep and Anxiety

If you have been living with ADHD, then you are probably all too familiar with the constellation of comorbidities that typically accompany the disorder, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, these conditions have also been shown to precipitate migraines. Sleep disruption and stress are particularly strongly associated with migraines.

For example, researchers have shown that sleep apnea and depression are strongly connected. At the same time, both mood disorders and disrupted sleep are known to precipitate or worsen the symptoms of both ADHD and migraine. This results in a vicious cycle in which a network of comorbidities — sleep disorders, mood disorders, ADHD, and migraine — feed off of and amplify one another.

However, studies suggest that the root causes of these comorbidities may be more complex, deriving from a combination of physiological and environmental factors. Researchers are currently speculating that the source of these related conditions may lie in the brain’s inability to process dopamine effectively.

Another link between ADHD and migraines may be stimulant medications taken for the treatment of ADHD symptoms.  Stimulant medication may cause either a mild headache in the back of the head as a dose of medication is wearing off, or a true migraine through the whole head that precipitates stopping meds because of the pain.

Simple Migraine Management Strategies

While there is no known cure for migraines, it is possible to manage the symptoms. Often, efforts to manage it will also help you to more effectively mitigate the symptoms of both ADHD and migraines.

Reduce Stress

Because depression and anxiety can lead to the worsening of migraines and ADHD symptoms, taking action to reduce your stress can be a crucial first step. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by clutter in your home, small, systematic efforts made each day to clear out your home will gradually decrease the stress that may trigger migraines or worsen your ADHD symptoms.

Maximize Sleep

Sleep disorders are closely linked to both migraines and ADHD, so taking steps to identify and address potential sleep problems may be highly beneficial in managing your symptoms.  It is estimated, for instance, that as many as 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, though millions may not realize it.

There are, though, many significant signs that can help you determine if you’re experiencing sleep apnea. This includes snoring, extreme daytime fatigue, waking frequently in the night, and waking with a sore throat. If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, speaking with your doctor or consulting with a sleep specialist may be another important strategy for improving your quality of life.

Explore Triggers, Pressure Points and Treatments

Understanding and avoiding your migraine triggers like stress, medication (or forgetting your medication), and sensory stimuli like sun glare, is a great preventive measure.  However, if you have a migraine there are treatments available.  Learning the pressure points used for migraine treatment in acupressure and acupuncture can bring relief, as can seeking treatment from specialists.  Avoiding triggers, and using pressure points are also effective ways to lessen ADHD symptoms.  If you suffer from acute migraine headaches, you may also need a treatment strategy that includes Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  Always seek advice from a medical doctor when starting any treatment plan.

The Takeaway

It is not always easy to live with a chronic condition and, for the millions who experience both ADHD and migraines, the challenges of each new day can be profound. Nevertheless, the comorbidities of ADHD and migraine do not have to deprive you of the quality of life you want and deserve. The good news is that in many cases, there are effective means of managing these conditions — and improvement in one condition almost always leads to improvement in the other.

About Beau Peters
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things

Beau Peters

Suggested Posts

Leave A Comment