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Migraine and Depression: What’s the Link?

Migraine and Depression: What’s the Link?

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Can migraines cause depression? Depression and anxiety disorders are frequently present in chronic migraineurs. People who suffer from severe migraine frequently deal with reduced productivity. Additionally, they could have a low quality of life. Keep reading to learn more about these conditions.

Difference Between Anxiety and Depression – Migraine and Depression

Anxiety and depression difference: The fact that one term denotes a single sickness while the other denotes a collection of ailments is a significant distinction between anxiety and depression.

In reality, depression is one illness. There are numerous distinct symptoms (see below). And different people may experience it very differently. However, the term “depression” only refers to one illness.

The word “anxiety” can indicate a number of different things. We all experience anxiety occasionally, and the word “anxiety” can be used to describe that feeling simply. However, when we use the word anxiety in a medical context, it actually refers to anxiety disorder.

Some less frequent conditions are included under anxiety. These include panic disorders and phobias. However, generalized anxiety disorder is the most prevalent (GAD). In the US, a generalized anxiety disorder may affect four to five out of every 100 persons. In this post, we’ll concentrate on generalized anxiety.

What is Anxiety Disorder? Migraine and Depression

According to The National Institute on Mental Health, periodic anxiety is a standard component of life. When faced with a challenge at work, before a test, or before making a crucial decision, you could experience anxiety. However, anxiety disorders involve more than just passing apprehension or terror.

Anxiety and depression difference: It’s critical to get anxiety treatment as soon as possible since, for someone with an anxiety condition, the anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. The symptoms might affect daily tasks like work performance, academic progress, and interpersonal connections. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders are only a few of the several types of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and depression difference: People with a generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive Anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about many things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. Fear and Anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work. 

What is Depression?

Depression (also known as Major Depressive Illness or Clinical Depression) is a common but significant mood disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It produces severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis, including sleeping, eating, and working. The signs of depression must last for at least two weeks before a diagnosis may be made.

Depression treatment is required when depressive symptoms are chronic and do not go away since some types of depression are slightly different or may arise in unusual situations.

Types of Depression

  • Persistent depressive disorder (also called dysthymia): is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major Depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for two years to be considered a persistent depressive disorder.
  • Psychotic Depression: occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
  • Bipolar disorder: is different from Depression, but it is included in this list because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major Depression (called “Bipolar Depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”
  • Postpartum Depression: is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Women with postpartum Depression experience full-blown major Depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany postpartum depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or their babies.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: is characterized by the onset of Depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This Depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter Depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
  • SAD Seasonal Depression (Depressed SAD): A form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is triggered by the changing of the seasons; it starts and ends about at the same periods each year. If you have SAD like the majority of people do, your symptoms begin in the fall and last through the winter, draining your energy and making you cranky. Typically, these symptoms go away in the spring and summer. SAD less frequently results in depression in the spring or early summer and clears up in the fall or winter. SAD treatment options include medications, psychotherapy, and light therapy (phototherapy).

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Depression Fact Sheet

Depression Overview

Depression is a group of illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder that are connected to mood elevation or depression


Types of Depression

Clinical Depression: A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Persistent depressive disorder: A mild but long-term form of depression.

Bipolar disorder: A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

Bipolar II disorder:  A type of bipolar disorder characterized by depressive and hypomanic episodes.

Postpartum depression: Depression that occurs after childbirth.

Depression Treatments

  • Support group: A place where those pursuing the same disease or objective, such as weight loss or depression, can receive counseling and exchange experiences.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: A conversation treatment that aimed to change the negative attitudes, actions, and feelings connected to psychiatric discomfort.
  • Counseling psychology: A subfield of psychology that handles issues with the self that are connected to work, school, family, and social life.
  • Anger management: To reduce destructive emotional outbursts, practice mindfulness, coping skills, and trigger avoidance.
  • Psychoeducation: Mental health education that also helps individuals feel supported, validated, and empowered
  • Family therapy: psychological counseling that improves family communication and conflict resolution.

Depression & Anxiety Statistics

It’s critical to understand the distinction between anxiety and depression. Anxiety, in its most basic form, is an excessive feeling of worry, whereas depression, in its most basic form, is an excessive feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness. It is conceivable for someone to experience depression and anxiety simultaneously.


6.8 million

GAD affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health

19 million

19 million adults experience specific phobias, making it the most common anxiety disorder in America.  

Source: ADAA2020

17.3 million

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults or about 7.1% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


Depression and anxiety disorders are frequently present in chronic migraineurs. People who suffer from severe migraine frequently deal with reduced productivity.
Depression and anxiety disorders are frequently present in chronic migraineurs. People who suffer from severe migraine frequently deal with reduced productivity.

Migraine Depression

Can migraines cause depression? Depression and anxiety disorders are frequently present in chronic migraineurs. People who suffer from severe migraine frequently deal with reduced productivity. Additionally, they could have a low quality of life.

Some of this is brought on by mental health issues like depression, which can coexist with migraines. Some individuals who have this illness also engage in drug misuse.

Can Depression Cause Migraines?

Migraine with depression: Depression and anxiety are both associated with migraine. According to Dawn Buse, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center, those who suffer from migraine are actually about five times more likely to experience depression than those who do not.

“It’s really normal that you would feel sad, down, and upset about how it’s hurting your life when you’re living with a chronic disease like migraine, which is disrupting your life in such a large way,” she explains.

According to Dr. Buse, the likelihood that a person has depression increases as the number of days per month that they experience episodic migraine attacks rises to 14 or fewer. Similar to this, between 30% and 50% of persons with chronic migraine also experience anxiety, as do about 20% of people with episodic migraine.

Migraines And Depression

Does depression cause migraines? Can migraines lead to depression? Doctors are unsure of the exact nature of the connection, according to Buse. Because migraines can be so crippling, many people experience despair or anxiety months or years after their headaches first appear.

Others, however, experience migraines after having long-term depression or anxiety. This shows that having a migraine does not always result in depression and anxiety. Anxiety, sadness, and migraines can all run in families.

Depression and migraine: According to Buse, “We think there might be some underlying cause, whether a hereditary explanation or the fact that both migraine and depression play off similar biochemicals in the brain and the body that predisposes someone to have one, then the other.”

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Depression And Migraines: Pain and Depression

Transformative migraine was the previous name for chronic migraine. A headache that lasts at least 15 days per month for more than three months is considered chronic. One could anticipate that someone who experiences chronic pain will also experience depression.

According to research, those who have other types of chronic pain, such as lower back pain, do not experience depression as frequently as those who suffer from migraines. Because of this, it is believed that there is a connection between migraine and mood disorders that is not always related to the condition’s ongoing pain.

It’s unclear just what kind of relationship this could be. There are numerous rationales that could apply. The onset of mood disorders like depression may be influenced by migraine, or it may be the other way around. Alternately, there may be a risk factor associated with the environment for both diseases. Though doubtful, it’s also feasible that the apparent connection is the result of coincidence.

Depression Migraines: Depression After Migraine and Depression Before Migraine

People with regular migraine headaches report a lower quality of life than those who only have them occasionally. People with chronic migraine who additionally suffer from depression or an anxiety condition have a higher risk of disability and lower quality of life. Some people even claim that their headache symptoms get worse following a depressive episode.

According to research, those who get migraines with aura are more likely to experience depression than those who experience migraines without aura. Doctors are recommended to check patients for depression since there may be a link between serious depression and recurrent migraines.

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Depression Migraine Medication Options

Antidepressant medication may be used to treat both problems when depression coexists with persistent migraine. However, it’s crucial to avoid combining triptans with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications. Serotonin syndrome is a rare and potentially deadly adverse effect that can be brought on by the interaction between these two groups of medications.

Too much serotonin in the brain causes this possibly lethal interaction. Antidepressants such as SSRIs and a related family of medications known as selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs) function by increasing the amount of serotonin that is present in the brain.

Antidepressant medication may be used to treat both problems when depression coexists with persistent migraine.
Antidepressant medication may be used to treat both problems when depression coexists with persistent migraine.

Modern migraine treatments include a class of medications called triptans. They function by attaching to serotonin receptors in the brain. This lessens swollen blood vessels, which eases migraine pain. Currently, seven distinct triptan medicines are prescribed and available. Another medication mixes the over-the-counter painkiller naproxen with the prescription painkiller triptan. brand names consist of:

  • Amerge
  • Axert
  • Frova
  • Imitrex
  • Maxalt
  • Relpax
  • Treximet
  • Zecuity
  • Zomig

This type of medication comes in:

  • Oral pill
  • Nasal spray
  • Injectables
  • Skin patch

Disability For Migraines Anxiety And Depression

Disability for migraines and depression: If your migraines are a side effect of another ailment for which you have received a diagnosis, that is one of the simplest ways to qualify for Social Security disability based on your migraines. Examples of conditions that can exacerbate episodic migraine symptoms include anxiety, depression, neurological conditions, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Depression Secondary To Migraines and Migraines Secondary To Depression

According to research, folks who suffer from migraines are five times more likely to feel depression than those who do not. Chronic migraines frequently result in large amounts of recurrent agony.

Va Migraines Secondary To Depression

Migraines may be considered a secondary illness to depression in the case of migraines and depression. The veteran must already be service-connected for depression in order to be eligible for secondary service connection for migraines. Give the secondary condition’s diagnosis (migraines).

Cortical Spreading Depression Migraine

An electrophysiological phenomenon known as cortical spreading depression (CSD) is characterized by a wave of cortical neuronal excitement followed by inhibition. About 20–30% of migraineurs experience an aura phase before to their headaches, which may be a direct result of the CSD.

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