Depression and Migraine

By: Robert A. Nicholson, PhD

What do migraines do to you? Whether you get tired, hungry, irritable, or sad, you know that just before, during, and sometimes after a migraine you just don’t feel as well.

For some people, being down, sad, or blue doesn’t just happen around the time of a migraine. Actually, in the US, for every ten people with migraine, three or four of them will also be depressed. So being depressed is pretty common for people with migraine. Unfortunately, that can make living with migraines even harder.

But why are people with migraine more likely to be depressed? Here are some possibilities:

  • Your genes. This is part of the reason since migraine and depression tend to run in families. But it isn’t the whole story since migraine and/or depression doesn’t always happen to everyone in a family.
  • Having pain makes you more likely to be depressed. This seems to make sense since the longer and more often you get a migraine, the easier it is to feel like things aren’t going to get any better. However, some people are depressed long before they began having migraines and others who had had migraines for a long time but aren’t depressed.
  • How your brain processes information. If you have migraine, depression, or both, your brain doesn’t process information quite the same as other people. That’s why your doctor may prescribe medication to help get your brain back in balance and will talk with you about things you can do each day (lifestyle changes) that can help make it less likely to get a migraine and can help with your mood.

If you are down most days, or don’t enjoy things like you have in the past, then talk with your doctor about whether they might be able to help you with your mood and your migraines.

Robert A. Nicholson, PhD, Mercy Virtual, St. Louis, MO.

This article is a legacy contribution from the American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education (ACHE) and the Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center.