Chicago Health | Homepage
Strong link between depression and migraine headaches

Strong link between depression and migraine headaches

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Ask the Harvard Experts

Q: Is there a link between depression and headaches?

A: Yes, they are connected. People with depression tend to have more frequent and more severe headaches compared to those without depression. And as headaches occur more often and become more intense, it’s likely that the person will become more depressed.

Of all headaches, migraine headaches have been most frequently studied. Many researchers have observed a close relationship between migraines and depression. For example, in people who have a clear diagnosis of migraine headaches, when compared to a control group, their frequency of major depression is almost triple. The reverse is also true, that people with depression are more likely than non-depressed people to experience migraine.

It might help to review the classic description of a migraine headache, because people sometimes use the word migraine to describe any very bad headache. But not all severe headaches are migraines.

The classic migraine headache is often preceded by symptoms that warn the person that the head pain is on its way. The warning symptoms can include an aura. This may be a visual or auditory experience, such as flashing lights or musical tones. This is followed by throbbing pain on one side of the head.

The headache may last from a few hours up to as much as three days. Physical activity makes the pain worse. People often feel sick to their stomachs. Light or sounds can be intolerable. This is why many people lie down in a dark, silent room when they get a migraine attack.

However, migraine headaches can often be tricky to diagnose because the symptoms may not be the typical ones.

Many experts believe that depression and migraine headaches have common biological or genetic roots. That is, the same biological factors that make some people vulnerable to depression can also make them vulnerable to migraine.

This association led to the discovery that antidepressant medication is useful in decreasing the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.

(Howard LeWine, M.D. is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

OCD?

OCD?

Misconceptions abound of a debilitating disorder By Lorna Collier Diana, 18, is a North Carolina high school senior

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Environmental Nutrition By Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter There is only so much food you

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I seem to be very

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I have spring allergies. Every

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

By Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. Harvard Health Blog I've read medical research studies that surprised me. I've

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

May 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017
May 7, 2017 May 8, 2017 May 9, 2017 May 10, 2017 May 11, 2017 May 12, 2017 May 13, 2017
May 14, 2017 May 15, 2017 May 16, 2017 May 17, 2017 May 18, 2017 May 19, 2017 May 20, 2017
May 21, 2017 May 22, 2017 May 23, 2017 May 24, 2017 May 25, 2017 May 26, 2017 May 27, 2017
May 28, 2017 May 29, 2017 May 30, 2017 May 31, 2017 June 1, 2017 June 2, 2017 June 3, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives