Depression And Migraine: Causes And Symptoms


The correlation between migraine and mental health is worth understanding. According to Dawn Buse, PhD, a behavioral medicine director at the Montefiore Headache Center, individuals with migraine have are 5 times more likely to develop depression compared to those without migraine.

Living with a chronic condition like migraine can significantly impact one’s life, leading to feelings of sadness, frustration, and a sense of being downcast, as Buse explains. The prevalence of depression among people with episodic migraine (14 or fewer headache days per month) is estimated to be around 20%, and this percentage tends to increase with an increase in the number of headache attack days. Moreover, about 20% of individuals with episodic migraine also experience anxiety, while anxiety affects between 30% and 50% of those with chronic migraine. Unfortunately migraine is also associated with other co-morbidities, such as epilepsy, making depression even more debilitating for migraine patients.

Can Depression Cause Migraine?

Does depression cause migraine? Though depression does not “cause” migraine directly, patients may develop migraine after a period of depression or anxiety. According to Dr Buse, the connection remains uncertain among medical professionals. For many individuals, depression or anxiety may emerge months or even years after the onset of migraines, partly due to the debilitating nature of migraines.

Additionally, like migraines, depression can be inherited as depression involves involve certain biochemical processes in the brain and body to be genetically more likely to experience migraine and depression.

Symptoms Of Depression For Migraine Patients

Symptoms of depression for migraine patients include:

  • fatigue
  • loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
  • change in sleep habits
  • changes in appetite
  • feelings of sadness
  • hopelessness

These symptoms closely resemble common migraine symptoms like insomnia, loss of appetite, and general discomfort.

Suicide, depression and migraine

Warning signs include discussing or writing about death, giving away important possessions, expressing feelings of being a burden to others, increased substance use, engaging in reckless behavior, extreme social withdrawal or isolation, contacting others to say goodbye, and thoughts of hopelessness that life will never improve. If you or someone you know is experiencing serious thoughts of suicide, it is crucial to openly share concerns with a healthcare professional or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255. It is important to note that depression is not typically a permanent condition, and there are numerous effective treatment options available.

Treatment for depression

Fortunately, depression and anxiety can often be effectively treated through various approaches, including medication that targets neurotransmitters. Non-pharmacological therapies are also available. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment option that helps individuals manage stress and modify their thoughts and behaviors, which may contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, as explained by Buse. Relaxation therapies, such as migraine breathing exercises or guided visual imagery, can be similarly effective in treating anxiety and depression, as well as reducing stress, which can exacerbate migraine symptoms.

Having a good sleep cycle can help you cope with depression. This is because certain sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, may hinder your rest and result in fatigue.

Experts also recommends biofeedback, a technique where patients are connected to a machine that measures physiological responses and provides feedback based on biological information. Biofeedback can be beneficial for managing anxiety, panic attacks, generalized anxiety, insomnia, and worry. There is strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of these strategies in managing migraine, according to Buse.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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