Home > Causes > Headaches and Depression

Headaches and Depression

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 5 Nov 2014 | comments*Discuss
Headaches Migraines Depression Doctor

The link between headaches and depression is complicated in that painful and often frequent headaches themselves can lead to depression and those who already suffer from depression may find that headaches are a symptom of their illness.


When headaches occur alongside depression treatment needs to be modified to address both ailments and therefore a multifaceted approach may be required. It seems obvious that constant pain could leave a person feeling sad and distressed but depression isn't a minor mood change to be taken lightly. It's a debilitating illness that can prevent a person from functioning and enjoying life to the fullest. Chronic headaches and depression both can have a devastating impact on a person's quality of life and well-being.

Some of the symptoms that may indicate depression are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling sad
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Lack of confidence
  • Various physical aches
  • Weight changes
  • Frequent thoughts of death

It can be a frustrating cycle in that you feel depressed because you are suffering headache pain that, in turn, causes intensified headache pain and frequency.

Why Me?

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, has been indicated in both depression and headaches, particularly migraines. It is thought that some people are more susceptible to changes and abnormalities in serotonin regulation. Another suggestion is that genetics are partially responsible for increasing the likelihood that a person will experience both headaches and depression. A traumatic accident or event may possibly set into motion changes in the brain that lead to headaches and then depression, or vice versa.

What Can You Do?

Unfortunately, many people don't seek help for depression, often because they are embarrassed or because they think that it will resolve on its own. Couple the depression with headaches and a person can be left feeling quite overwhelmed and helpless. The lack of motivation and apathy that can accompany depression make it difficult for a person to seek help and support.

Stress management is important in treating both headaches and depression. Because there can be many sources of stress, you may have to examine the strongest ones and work to reduce them. People who suffer from headaches and depression are more likely to have higher levels of daily stress. Medication alone may not be adequate to address your headaches and depression if you ignore the root stress causes of your pain.

Some people find that alternative methods such as biofeedback and yoga, for example, help them to cope with daily pressures. Counselling is another option and can be helpful in providing an outlet for you to discuss your worries and fears. Above all, however, do realise that you are not alone. Depression and headaches affect many people and your doctor will be familiar with treating both illnesses.

A key question for research scientists is whether treating one disorder will then involve treatment of the other. It should not be assumed that by treating one disorder, the other will automatically go away, although this may indeed be the case. Your doctor will decide which medications are best for your headaches and depression.

Anti-depressants may be prescribed and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may be recommended to start, with prescription strength headache preparations following if these are not successful. There are options available for treating headaches and depression, and you need not suffer alone.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
i have severe migraines, i have at least 5 per week, i also suffer from neuralgia, could the migraine attack trigger the neuralgia in the one side of my head, used to have neuralgia in my teeth and side of face the same side as i have now in the head, the pain is unbearable for about30 minutes then goes, same used to happen with my teeth pain, had scan on head and all normal, any advise given gratefully received,
ali - 5-Nov-14 @ 7:39 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • bea
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have being having pain on the middle part of my head and when it comes I get dizzy pls what could be the cause and what can I…
    10 April 2017
  • Mumof3
    Re: Headache With Pins and Needles: Is This Serious?
    I have pins and needles beneath my feet, it has been there for three days now- and hasn't gone away.…
    25 March 2017
  • Ms. Haider
    Re: Headaches and Eyesight
    I wear soft contact lenses in the day time and take them out only when I'm ready to sleep. Even then if the contacts are out and I close…
    12 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Migraine Classification
    My daughter has been diagnosed with migraine as she has most of the symptoms, so her neurologist said it was a classic one; He prescribed…
    10 March 2017
  • Alexandra
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I had hit ny head on a table and got a headache and it was getting worse so i went home, in the car i had passes out and my mom…
    10 March 2017
  • Alleycat
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    I have started walking with a headache about an hour after falling asleep.This happens at night or if I am sleeping during the day.…
    10 March 2017
  • Jad
    Re: Headaches and Iron Deficiency
    For the last year I've been getting shooting pains up and down the left side of my head which was diagnosed as trigeminal…
    8 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Headaches Caused by Tensions and Stress
    Hi, My daughter, 16, has been diagnosed with having tension headaches, (via CAT scan and MRI) when she was 11. Since…
    7 March 2017
  • DUNK
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have suffered severe eye, scalp, jaw pain for 5 years. The pain has been so bad I have thought about suicide more than once. The…
    6 March 2017
  • "common-cold antenna
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I've had this pain on my scalp in approximately the same area for a long time ( about 26yrs ). It happens just before I get a bout…
    26 February 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.