Headaches are one of the more common physical symptoms of depression. While not everyone living with a diagnosis of depression will experience this symptom, those who do may find it debilitating — often interfering with their ability to go about their daily lives.
While people experiencing headaches from depression often seek out specific headache or migraine remedies, sometimes the best solution is to seek recovery from depression itself. Finding evidence-based depression treatment can make dramatic changes in your mental health and a vast reduction in physical symptoms.
Depression is a complex mental health condition with many different diagnoses, causes, and symptoms. Scientists have discovered a strong genetic link for depressive disorders, suggesting that it is largely an inherited mental health condition, though any individual is liable to develop depression as a result of several lived experiences.
Among other causes, some of the leading contributing factors to depression include:
- Major life changes
- Living through traumatic experiences
- Chronic stress
- Serious medical diagnoses
- Family history of depression
Regardless of the cause, living with depression can be difficult. A depression diagnosis can interfere with your ability to work, maintain healthy relationships, or even pursue the things that you find most meaningful in your life.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression are often what stand in the way of people living life as they see fit. Depression symptoms can vary between distinct depression diagnoses or even between individuals, but most people will experience several of the symptoms listed below.
The mental symptoms of depression are those that affect your thoughts, emotions, or motivations. Among others, some of the more common mental symptoms of depression include:
- Trouble concentrating or focusing on specific tasks
- Chronic low mood
- Loss of motivation
- Thoughts of death
- Anger or irritability
- Unstable moods
- Slowed thinking
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Anxiety or restlessness
For people with depression, these symptoms can occur most of the day and most of the week. Depending on the specific depression diagnosis, these symptoms can be episodic or can last for years without a clear end in sight.
But there are ways to start feeling better. Evidence-based depression treatments can drastically change the mental landscape for people living with depression, resulting in a dramatic reduction in mental symptoms and improved well-being.
Depression is typically thought of as primarily a psychological problem, but there are a number of physical symptoms of depression that can be incredibly distressing as well. Some of the common physical symptoms of depression include:
- Sleep difficulties, including either insomnia or hypersomnia
- Unexpected weight changes
- Chronic fatigue and tiredness
- Muscle pain or tension
- Appetite changes
These symptoms can often seem counterintuitive to people experiencing depression. How, exactly, does a mental health disorder lead to physical pain, tension, or appetite changes? The simple explanation is that depression happens primarily in the brain. The same networks that regulate your mood control physical signals from the body as well.
Headaches From Depression
Headaches are commonly reported physical depression symptoms. People are much more likely to experience migraines — a severe form of headache — if they have a diagnosis of a depressive disorder.
In one study, scientists found that people with major depressive disorder were 3.4 times more likely to develop migraines over a two-year period than the general community. Conversely, people with migraines were 5.8 times as likely to develop depression.
The reasons for this high rate of comorbidity aren’t fully understood, but scientists believe that there are several factors that contribute to why depression headaches are so common.
While depression is more complex than just a neurotransmitter imbalance, serotonin is often implicated in both depression and migraine diagnoses.
Specifically, people with both depression and migraine disorders have been found to have a lower quantity of serotonin receptors, suggesting that these receptors may be involved in both depression and headaches.
Research looking into genetic links between depression and migraines has found that certain genes are associated with both disorders. Essentially, certain gene sequences can increase your risk of both depression and migraines and are generally passed between family generations.
Experiencing chronic stress can be a trigger for both depression and migraines. While stress may lead to migraines at first, experiencing it regularly leads to depression.
Headaches, especially migraines, can rapidly become a source of chronic pain. And when people experience chronic pain, they quickly become more susceptible to developing a diagnosis of depression. This is much of the reason people with migraines are so prone to developing a depressive disorder.
What You Can Do About Headaches From Depression
Depression headaches can be inconvenient and painful, even without considering all the other difficult aspects of living with a depression diagnosis. A depression headache can lead to calling out of work, not being able to spend time with friends or family, or even not being able to keep up with your responsibilities at home.
But you can find relief from depression headaches. In fact, there are many options for treating depression, headaches, or both simultaneously, offering you several pathways to achieving a lasting and worthwhile recovery.
The best method for moving toward a greater sense of holistic well-being is finding an integrative treatment center that offers both medical and psychological treatments for depression and headaches. When both challenges are disrupting your quality of life, working to treat them both can help you get on the road to recovery faster.
Traditional Depression and Headache Treatment Options
Talk therapy and medication management are the two traditional treatment options for depression. Both styles of treatment have been studied for decades and can lead to reductions in depression headaches, improvements in mood, and regained motivation.
Many therapeutic styles have proven themselves to be effective in treating depressive disorders. This includes therapeutic modalities such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
While each takes a slightly different approach, these techniques can help change the way you think, feel, and behave. They provide actionable coping strategies for when you experience symptoms of depression, and when they are successful, they can dramatically reduce your experience of migraine or headaches as well.
Medication management takes a different approach. Rather than working with a therapist, you work with a psychiatrist who can provide several medication options that have been proven to help treat depression.
Medication management takes place over several weeks so that you can try new medications if the first one isn’t a good fit, dial in the correct dosage to meet your needs, and have professional support if you experience any uncomfortable side effects.
While psychiatrists aren’t typically first-line providers for migraine treatment, many of the medications used to treat depression can provide substantial migraine relief.
Medication management and talk therapy typically work best in conjunction with one another. Several studies have shown that combined treatment provides better results than one intervention alone.
Novel Depression and Migraine Treatment Techniques
Although there is a large body of evidence supporting traditional treatment options, the fact is that they don’t always work for everyone.
But at Plus by APN, our team offers exciting and innovative treatment techniques that can work even when traditional treatments fail. We can provide a new avenue of hope for people who have tried other treatments without success.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is a way of treating depression and migraines directly at the source of the problem.
People with depression and co-occurring migraines often have specific regions of the brain that are underactive compared to neurotypical controls, and dTMS can stimulate these regions to higher levels of activity.
A non-invasive cap fitted with electromagnets sends brief impulses to underactive brain regions. This causes neurons to fire, increasing activity and building neural connections that can last well beyond the treatment session alone.
dTMS is an evidence-based approach for treating certain types of depression and can be used in conjunction with other depression and migraine treatment techniques to further enhance your chances of success.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a technique that puts clients into a hyperoxygenated chamber. Breathing this highly oxygenated air increases the level of oxygen in your blood, which in turn can accelerate tissue healing in both the brain and the body.
HBOT is often used in the treatment of certain migraine conditions and can frequently lead to a rapid reduction in symptoms. When paired with other techniques for treating depression, it can play an important role in a holistic plan for whole-person well-being.
Ketamine is a dissociative psychedelic medication that has been used in the medical field for decades. Only recently has its mental health benefits been closely investigated by scientists and clinicians, and it has rapidly proven itself to be a potent and effective tool for treating a wide variety of mental health conditions.
Ketamine-assisted treatment (KAT) pairs you with a therapist and medical team who will walk you through the entire treatment process.
It starts with an assessment that helps professionals determine whether KAT is right for you, answer any questions you have about treatment, and ensure there are no contraindications that may disqualify you from receiving KAT.
Next, you start the ketamine-assisted therapy session itself. This starts with taking the medicine, which takes effect in about thirty minutes and lasts about two hours. During this time, you’ll talk with your therapist about your mental health challenges, how you can move past them, and the ketamine experience itself.
With just a single ketamine session, people can accomplish in one day what could take weeks or months in standard therapy. In effect, ketamine acts as a therapy incubator, helping people make breakthroughs and revelations that galvanize their resolve to follow the path to recovery.
The effects of just a single session are remarkable, but some people may benefit from repeated KAT sessions to further enhance their symptom relief.
Start Treatment at Plus by APN
At Plus by APN, our experience has shown us that offering a wide range of effective and evidence-based treatment methods is the best way to help our clients achieve recovery. That’s why we’ve paired both traditional and innovative approaches in our holistic model of mental health, giving you every tool available to meet your mental health needs.
To get started with treatment, reach out to our team by calling 424.644.6486 or by filling out our confidential online contact form for more information. Our team is ready to support you along every step of your recovery journey.
- Breslau, N et al. “Comorbidity of migraine and depression: investigating potential etiology and prognosis.” Neurology vol. 60,8 (2003): 1308-12. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000058907.41080.54
- Jahangir, Saira et al. “Is There an Association Between Migraine and Major Depressive Disorder? A Narrative Review.” Cureus vol. 12,6 e8551. 10 Jun. 2020, doi:10.7759/cureus.8551