The intense, debilitating and recurring pain associated with migraine is enough to get anyone down, but is there really a link between migraines and depression? Well, people who suffer from migraine stand a five times greater chance of developing clinical depression than those who don’t have the condition. And looking at it the other way, people who are depressed are three times more likely than happy people to become migraine sufferers,(migraineurs).
There is clearly a strong correlation between the two conditions, but the question for scientists is, does one cause the other. But there is no simple answer to it. Migraine, depression and insomnia, a problem that is associated with both conditions, all have a common denominator. All linked to deficiency of neurotransmitters in the brain.
It is now believed that while migraine and depression have similar neurobiology, their exact causes are different. For a long time, it was thought that depression suffered by migraineurs was due to the impact that migraine had on their quality of life. This theory of a psychological link is now being abandoned in favour of the idea of a common biological mechanism.
This coexistence of the two conditions can lead to problems when attempting to treat them by the use of medication. There is a risk of interaction between the drugs used in each case. In 2oo6, the FDA flagged up one potential conflict. That being the mixing of SSRIs or SNRIs, both used in the treatment of depression and mood disorders, with Triptans for migraine relief. The possible result of mixing these drugs is a condition called Serotonin Syndrome.
The action of both types of drug is to increase the amount of serotonin available in the bloodstream. Too much serotonin causes serotonin syndrome. Some of the symptoms are, increase pulse rate and body temperature, rapid blood pressure changes, stomach upsets and even hallucinations. In extreme cases, there may be no choice but to take both medications at the same time, but this would be a last resort and done under close medical supervision.
I have to declare a personal bias. I am strongly averse to taking any drug if I can avoid it. I did try to deal with depression without medication at first, but in the end, I bowed to medical opinion and used SSRIs. Even then, I made sure that I came off them again as soon as possible. I have also experienced migraine, though not at the same time. In that case, I do believe that there are many better, safer, natural alternatives to medication.
There is another connection between migraine and depression and that is stress. A high level of stress over a long period of time can eventually tip over into depression. And stress is thought to be one of the main triggers of attacks in migraine sufferers. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can be very beneficial in both cases. Diet also plays an important role in both conditions.