Depression and Headaches: How They Are Linked

August 17, 2022
Depression and headaches
Depression and Headaches: How They Are Linked

Headaches and depression are two conditions that affect millions of people around the world.

Depression is a mental disorder that causes feelings of sadness, despair, anxiety, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, loneliness, helplessness, and even suicidal thoughts. In 2020, roughly 14.8 million adults in the US suffered from major depressive disorders.

When it comes to headaches, they can be caused by inflammation and different medical conditions, stress, lack of sleep, and many other reasons. They may lead to not just pain but also nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and make someone feel dizzy and sensitive to light.

Both of these conditions can combine and may lead to tiredness and lethargy. Below, let’s know more about the connection between depression and headaches and how to manage the symptoms.

Get your symptoms checked by a mental health expert. Consult with a doctor online at Mango Clinic.

Can Depression Cause Headaches and Vice Versa?

According to one study, people with headaches or migraines are three times more likely to develop depression. Moreover, in the same study, the researchers found that it is possible for depression to predict the first onset of migraines. They also found that the group with migraines and severe headaches were three times more likely to develop major depression.

A study by the ADAA found that 11% of the research group had migraine attacks before they developed depression, anxiety, and bipolar.

There are several possible explanations for this link. One reason is people who experience depression often feel stress and anxiety, which can lead to headaches from depression.

That aside, is a constant headache a sign of depression? A study shows that about 30% of people who experience chronic headaches have major depression.

Causes of Depression and Headaches

Factors that contribute to depression Causes and headaches include:

  • Genetics. People with family members suffering from either condition are at higher risk of developing it.
  • Stress. Undue stress related to studies, work, finances, and family is a common risk factor for headaches and depression.
  • Lifestyle. Smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and using drugs may increase the chances of headaches and depression.
  • Pregnancy. Postpartum depression can occur during pregnancy or after giving birth
  • Environment. Living in a polluted area increases the chances of suffering from headaches and depression.
  • Other Medical Ailments. Certain medical conditions make people more prone to headaches. These include eye problems, dental issues, hormonal irregularities, infections, and inflammatory conditions like temporal arteritis.
  • Medications. Some medications may cause depression and headaches as their side effect. Examples are anticholinergics, stimulants, oral contraceptives, steroids, etc.

The Variety of Symptoms of Headaches

Although pain is the main and the most common sign of headaches, some symptoms may occur in addition to it, manifesting the possibility of a mental health problem too:

  • Experiencing a sudden, severe pain
  • Intense, radiating pain
  • Significant recurrent ache
  • Confusion, double vision, fever, seizure
  • Loss of interest in activities previously loved
  • The lousy mood in the mornings
Can depression give you headaches

Types of Headaches

Sinus Headache

Inflammation of the sinuses causes sinus headaches, that is, frontal headaches (forehead and behind the eyes).


Migraines are headaches characterized by constant pain on one side of the head. It affects about 12% of the American population.

Tension Headache

Muscle tension in the neck causes tension in the shoulders, back, jaw, and scalp. These muscles often tighten due to stress, poor posture, or insomnia. When these muscles tense, they pull on nerves causing them to send signals to the brain that may trigger depression.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are sudden onset of intense pain on one side of the head. Milder symptoms like eye watering, nasal congestion, and yawning often precede them.

Untreated headaches may lead to the development of mental health issues. Connect with a doctor to know coping tips.

Treatment Options

There are many ways to treat depression and headaches, but the first step is always to seek help from a doctor. A healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on medical history, symptoms evaluation, and additional tests.


Depression and headaches are both medical problems that one can treat with medication, but only a certified professional can choose the right meds for you. Therefore, it is essential to get a prescription from a doctor.

Antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are the treatment of choice for depression. However, Certain antidepressant medications are also effective in managing migraine attacks. Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, is most often used to prevent migraine attacks. In the case of comorbid depression and migraine, SNRIs like duloxetine and venlafaxine might be the most effective drugs for comorbid depression and migraines.

Besides antidepressants, other medications may also be used for symptomatic relief from migraine and other types of headaches:

Doctors often give medication for mild to moderate cases of depression and headaches.


If depression or headaches persist despite treatment, doctors can recommend psychotherapy (for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)), which focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to the condition.

An effective treatment plan often includes both talk therapy and medication. Therapy involves identifying the underlying causes of depression and headaches, while medications eliminate the symptoms, making it simpler to implement the knowledge gained during therapy sessions.


Biofeedback is a technique where the affected learn how to control their physiological responses. Patients learn how to control brain waves and blood pressure, which helps them relax and reduce frequent pains.

Other Remedies

These are some other remedies to prevent depression headaches:

  • Exercise regularly. It helps improve blood flow to the brain and reduces stress levels.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent migraines by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Examples of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and soybeans.
  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking enough water keeps the brain functioning properly and promotes sound sleep.
  • Get adequate rest. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones, leading to headaches. Try to get eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and causes headaches. For people who drink coffee, limit it to three cups daily.
Depression and headaches prevention

When to Visit a Doctor

While headaches and depression are common, they are treated more effectively with the help of a doctor. Moreover, these issues may indicate a deeper problem if someone experiences the symptoms over an extended period. If there are any symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor immediately.

It may be more efficient to seek treatment for depression and headache simultaneously. Before visiting a doctor, make a note of all the vitamins, supplements, and medication you are taking.


Although depression and headaches are often associated, they do not always go hand-in-hand. Many times though, people who experience depression also experience headaches. To know more about the causes of your health issues and get a correct diagnosis, consult with a mental health professional. Contact us today and get a personalized treatment plan.


Real help for Depression.
Beat your symptoms with our expert advice.

Get Depression Treatment
Get Your Treatment Now

© Copyright 2024 Mango Clinic. All rights reserved.