Rapid cycling bipolar disorder and migraines are independently associated with each other, a cross-sectional study shows.

“Our findings provide further evidence that comorbid migraine in [bipolar disorder] represents a more homogenous subgroup of [bipolar disorder] that may be associated with an unstable rapid cycling illness course,” wrote K. Gordon-Smith, Ph.D., and her colleagues.

The United Kingdom–based study included 1,488 individuals with lifetime clinical characteristics of bipolar disorder (BD). Of the study’s sample, 375 had comorbid migraines. Both patients with bipolar disorder I and bipolar disorder II participated in the self-report research project.

Among the study’s findings is that numerous clinical characteristics occurred significantly more often in the migraine group. Such characteristics included having a history of panic attacks, rapid cycling (defined as experiencing four or more episodes in a 12-month period), family history of affective disorders, and younger age at illness onset. The study also found that significantly more subjects in the migraine group had a lower history of psychiatric admission, and less impairment in functioning during their worst episode of (hypo)mania. The study confirmed the finding of previous research showing that bipolar patients with comorbid migraines are more likely to be female.

Further in-depth analyses of this patient population with more detailed information about the migraine phenotype is needed, the researchers said.

Read the full study in Journal of Affective Disorders ( doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.024 ).