Patients with bipolar disorder suffer from migraine more often than individuals without the mental health disorder. Additionally, migraine is linked with more frequent and severe depression among those with the mood disorder.

In a recent study, Erika Saunders, MD, executive vice-chair of psychiatry at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and colleagues evaluated 569 subjects—412 with bipolar disorder and 157 as healthy controls.

They found that 31% percent of those with bipolar disorder, which is marked by extreme mood shifts, also had migraine—compared to just 6% in the control group. Women were disproportionately affected, and among those with bipolar disorder, being female tripled the likelihood of having migraine. Researchers also found that migraine was associated with an earlier age at onset of bipolar disorder and more severe and frequent depression as well as a history of childhood emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional neglect.

Among men, migraine was nearly 10 times more likely to occur in bipolar II disorder, a form of the illness that has more severe depression and less severe mania than bipolar I disorder. Researchers did not find this connection, however, in women.

Based on their findings, for optimal medical care, researchers encourage health care professionals to be alert for the possibility of migraine in all women with bipolar disorder and in men with bipolar II disorder.

“Effective treatment of migraine may impact mood outcome in bipolar disorder as well as headache outcome,” they wrote.

This study appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.