The Physiology of Migraine Mood Swings

With a range including euphoria, high sexual interest, high energy, depression, irritability and lethargy, mood swings are among migraine’s more bizarre symptoms. I knew they were related to serotonin, but never really understood the physiology until I read this fantastic post by Pam Curtis on Make This Look Awesome. In addition to describing the biology of migraine mood swings, she provides excellent ideas for coping with them.

Pam explains that following an initial surge in serotonin (responsible for a pre-migraine “high” or panic attacks), “the body loses all serotonin. It loses it’s supply in the blood, it loses it’s supply in the brain,” thus downshifting the brain into more troubling emotions. After providing further detail and citations, she points out that:

“It’s completely normal to expect with all this wacky brain chemistry going off, that besides the pain, there’s going to be an emotional component. (Pain, itself, provides its own emotional components, triggering “fight or flight” emotions such as aggression or apologizing.) There are going to be mood swings as there are brain chemical swings. And since all this also kicks off the autonomic nervous system by causing physical stress on the body, the migraineur’s ability to handle external stress is taxed.”

This brief excerpt is an insufficient glimpse at Pam’s post. Do yourself a favor by reading the entire piece.