People with bipolar disorder may be more prone to experiencing other neurological or psychiatric conditions, including migraine. Studies suggest that about 30% of people with bipolar disorder experience migraine at some point in their life, with higher rates observed among women and younger individuals.

Some studies suggest that more than 75% of women with bipolar II disorder experience migraine. Migraine is also more common in people with bipolar disorder who have other health conditions, including fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and asthma.

People with migraine are also more likely to have bipolar disorder. An estimated 5-9% of people with migraine also have bipolar disorder, compared with about 2.8% in the general United States population.

Although the experiences of bipolar disorder and migraine are different, there are many similarities between the two conditions. They are both chronic disorders characterized by recurring episodes of symptoms that can last days at a time. Migraine and bipolar episodes may even be triggered by similar causes, including:

The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but it is thought to be the result of a variety of genetic, chemical, and structural changes in the brain that make a person more susceptible to headache triggers like those described above.

Many of the potential disease-causing factors in migraine overlap with those believed to contribute to bipolar disorder. Like migraine, bipolar disorder is also thought to have a genetic component. Environmental exposures such as trauma, chemical exposures, or infections can also lead to rewiring of brain circuits that result in people with bipolar disorder being more sensitive to certain triggers.

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and defects in energy-processing mechanisms in the brain are common features of both migraine and bipolar disorder. Certain types of genetic changes, like alterations in genes that regulate calcium trafficking in cells, have been linked to both bipolar disorder and migraine.

Collectively, experts take these results to mean that bipolar disorder and migraine are caused by similar mechanisms, and that the biological and environmental changes that make a person more susceptible to one condition also make them more likely to develop the other.

Treatment of migraine in people with bipolar disorder requires careful consideration of both conditions. Some of the medications commonly used to 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, and beta blockers may lead to depressive symptoms.

Some types of medications used for bipolar disorder can also be used to prevent migraine attacks. These include:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium and lamotrigine
  • anticonvulsants, such as topiramate and valproate
  • atypical antipsychotics, such as quetiapine

If a person has both migraine and bipolar disorder, disclosing their full medical history to all members of their healthcare team can help ensure that both conditions are effectively managed without compromising other aspects of their health.

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

A neurologist that specializes in headache disorders can help provide care for migraine symptoms, and a psychiatrist can help develop a treatment plan to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. A psychologist or clinical psychotherapist may be involved in treatment for bipolar disorder as well.

Some people with migraine may also benefit from psychotherapy.

It’s 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 are synergistic rather than conflicting.

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

Migraine is common in people with bipolar disorder, caused by an array of overlapping genetic and environmental causes. Triggers for migraine and bipolar disorder are similar, which can lead to distress if episodes are triggered simultaneously.

Some migraine treatments can negatively affect mood in people with bipolar disorder. When developing treatment plans with their physicians, people with bipolar disorder and migraine should be sure that all members of their care team have a complete understanding of their medical history in order to make informed decisions that support their overall health.