People with bipolar disorder may be more prone to experiencing other neurological or psychiatric conditions, including migraine. Those with migraine may also have a higher risk of bipolar disorder.

The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but researchers believe it may involve genetic, chemical, and structural changes in the brain that make someone more susceptible to headache triggers.

Migraine and bipolar disorder are distinct conditions but share some similarities. Both are chronic disorders involving recurring episodes of symptoms that can last days at a time.

Migraine and bipolar episodes may even involve similar causes or triggers, including stress, sleep disturbances, and hormonal changes.

This article explains the link between bipolar disorder and migraine and offers some tips for managing migraine symptoms.

A 2020 review article suggests there is a heritable link between bipolar disorder and migraine, and up to 39% of those with bipolar disorder may also have migraine.

Similarly, a 2021 study suggests migraine is three times more prevalent in people with bipolar disorder than those without. The authors highlight that migraine is more prevalent among those with bipolar 2 disorder, a less severe form of the condition.

According to a 2021 research paper, migraine is more common among females and younger people. There may also be a link between a bipolar disorder-migraine phenotype and other conditions, including:

  • fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain
  • asthma
  • psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and scaly plaques on the skin

People with migraine are also more likely to have bipolar disorder. A 2016 study estimates that 5–9% of people with migraine also have bipolar disorder, compared with about 2.8% in the general United States adult population.

Factors involved

Certain mechanisms involved in migraine overlap with those that contribute to bipolar disorder. Risk factors for both conditions may include:

  • genetic components
  • environmental factors
  • oxidative stress, an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body which can cause cell or tissue damage

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and defects in energy-processing mechanisms in the brain are potential mechanisms involved in both migraine and bipolar disorder.

Research also links certain types of genetic changes, such as alterations in genes that regulate calcium trafficking in cells, to both bipolar disorder and migraine.

Experts may believe that the biological and environmental changes that make a person more susceptible to one condition also make them more likely to develop the other.

However, more research is necessary to improve the outlook and treatment of people with bipolar disorder and migraine.

Treating migraine in people with bipolar disorder requires careful consideration of both conditions.

Some of the medications that treat or prevent migraine, including antidepressants and beta blockers, can lead to mood episodes in bipolar disorder.

Certain types of antidepressants — tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor) — can trigger manic episodes. Additionally, beta-blockers may lead to depressive symptoms.

However, some types of bipolar disorder medications can also prevent migraine attacks. These include:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium and lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • anticonvulsants, such as topiramate (Topamax) and valproate
  • atypical antipsychotics, such as quetiapine (Seroquel)

A person with both migraine and bipolar disorder needs to disclose their medical history to all members of their healthcare team. The team can help ensure effective management of both conditions without compromising other aspects of the individual’s health.

Taking steps to avoid migraine triggers may also benefit people with bipolar disorder. These measures include minimizing stress and getting plenty of sleep.

People with migraine and bipolar disorder may consult multiple healthcare professionals as part of their care plan.

A neurologist who specializes in headache disorders can provide care for migraine symptoms, and a psychiatrist can help develop a treatment plan to manage bipolar disorder symptoms.

A psychologist or clinical psychotherapist may be part of bipolar disorder treatment. Some people with migraine may also benefit from psychotherapy.

It is important that all members of the care team have a complete understanding of a person’s medical history and care plans to ensure that treatment efforts do not conflict.

A primary care physician can help coordinate medical care between different specialists and serve as a central contact point for sharing information.

Below are answers to common questions about migraine and bipolar disorder.

Is migraine a symptom of bipolar disorder?

Migraine and bipolar disorder are distinct health conditions but may share some underlying mechanisms, including genetic and environmental factors.

People with bipolar disorder may also be more likely to experience migraine than those without the condition.

What medication do doctors use for bipolar disorder and migraine?

Certain mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, and atypical psychotics that treat bipolar disorder may also help prevent migraine symptoms. People can speak with a doctor to learn which medication may suit them,

What medications can cause migraine with bipolar disorder?

Certain bipolar medications may cause side effects, including symptoms similar to migraine, such as headache and nausea. Similarly, certain migraine medications may lead to manic or depressive episodes in those with bipolar disorder.

People need to speak with their doctor if they have concerns about side effects due to their current medication.

Migraine is common in people with bipolar disorder. Similar mechanisms, including genetic and environmental factors, may be involved in both conditions.

Some migraine treatments can negatively affect mood in people with bipolar disorder. People can work with a healthcare team to determine the best treatment options.

Taking steps to reduce or avoid exposure to triggers may also help a person manage both conditions. This may include managing stress levels and getting plenty of good quality sleep.