Community, Coping, Mental Health

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.

4 thoughts on “The Physiology of Migraine Mood Swings”

  1. I too suffer Migraines. One or two days prior to the aura I get either very irritable or, sometime , euorphic. I have learned to live with as I’ve had Migrainesome foe nearly sixty five years.

    Thanks for the posts. Glad to hear I’m not crazy.


  2. Thanks, Kerry! You’ve been such an inspiration to me over the years, it’s an honor! Your continued support of the migraine community is legendary, and this, during your own struggles, is no picknick — I know! I’m glad I could clear up the mystery for you and Lisa, and others. (And thank you Lisa for the repost on the Migraine Coalition Facebook page!)

    Spreading the word about the truth of migraines and their wide-spread symptoms is so important not only for the folks like us who suffer from them, but also to everyone around us who may not understand why a headache can cause so many other issues. It’s so important to remember a migraine attack is an attack on the ENTIRE nervous system. Mood swings should be *expected*!

    Thank you again!

  3. I just posted this on the Migraine Action Coalition facebook page. I feel like it’s an important aspect of migraines that cannot be overlooked. I didn’t realize that the triptans didn’t stop the entire attack. That explains why many of my non-pain symptoms linger. Thank you for sharing this.

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