Migraines and ADHD, are they co-occurring?

migraineAs cases of both ADHD and migraines are on the rise, researchers are now starting to consider if there is a correlation between ADHD and migraines. They are also researching why they might co-occur.

Migraines are extremely painful and often debilitating. Professionals who treating individuals with ADHD are starting to see a rise in the number of children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD suffering from them.

But why is this happening? Why is there a co-occurrence between the two?

A recent study published by European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience found that men with ADHD were more than twice as likely to suffer from migraines. Another study released by Sage Journals specifically conducted on children found the severity of ADHD symptoms is in direct proportion to the frequency of migraines. Current theories include; hormonal fluctuation, mood, anxiety, and separation disorders.

More can be read about the theories in a recent article by CHADD.

For children with co-occurring migraines and ADHD an important theory comes from Marco Antonio Arruda, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist at San Paulo University in Brazil, who states that stress and other stimuli affecting neurotransmitters is occurring. Dr. Arruda goes on to say; “When attending children with headaches, clinicians should explore school performance, absenteeism, and mental health, especially symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in order to make a correct diagnosis.”

Additionally, children who have ADHD co-occurring with migraines have more learning and social difficulties than other children. So, what can we do?

For migraines:

  • Determine your triggers (specific event or conditions that bring on headaches)
  • Get consistent sleep
  • Avoiding strong smells, bright lights, smoke, pollution, etc.
  • Avoid overuse of pain medication
  • Watch your diet by avoiding certain foods
  • Ask your physician if he or she thinks migraines and ADHD may be related. However, remember there is no specific treatment at this time.

The good news is there is a program available, Play Attention, that addresses ADHD behaviors such as impulsivity, attention, and self-distracting behaviors. Play Attention can be used in conjunction with the preventative steps above to help lessen migraines and improve attention, behavior, and executive function by strengthening cognitive skills.