Depression causing migraines

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

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Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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Relationship between migraine and mental health

Migraine is associated with both depression and anxiety. In fact, people with migraines are about five times more likely to develop depression than those without migraines, according to Dr. Buzau, PhD, director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center and assistant professor of neurology at the college. Albert Einstein in New York.


  • What causes this?
  • Symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Treatment options
  • Continue to implement plans

"It's very logical when you live with a chronic illness like migraine that affects your life to the point of making you sad, tired and frustrated," she says.

Dr. Buzău says that about 20% of people who have episodic migraine, when the headache occurs 14 days or less per month, may also have depression, and this number increases in proportion to the number of headache days per month. Similarly, about 20% of people with episodic migraine have anxiety, and the proportion of people with chronic migraine and anxiety is between 30% and 50%. nine0003

What causes this?

Does migraine cause anxiety? Can depression cause migraines? Buzau says that doctors do not quite understand the sequence of development of these processes. Many people experience depression or anxiety months or even years after the onset of a migraine, and the reason for this is that migraine is a very debilitating disease.

However, the exception is when the migraine develops after the onset of depression or anxiety. This indicates that depression and anxiety are not necessarily consequences of migraine. nine0003

According to doctors, for a certain disease to occur, there must be an underlying cause, for example, genetic. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that both with depression and migraine, similar biochemical processes occur in the body.


Common symptoms of anxiety, excessive anxiety, fear and irritability, can negatively affect the course of a migraine. Patients worry about when the next attack will take place, feel helpless because of the unpredictability of their symptoms, and feel frustrated because migraines are affecting their lives. nine0003

When a person does not know when the next attack will come, this can cause significant anxiety and, finally, depression. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, loss of interest or pleasure in things previously enjoyed, sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, which also closely mirror common migraine symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, and malaise.

Suicidal thoughts

Both depression and anxiety disorders increase the risk of suicide. You need to pay attention when a person: nine0003

  • speaks or writes about death;
  • gives things that were very important to him;
  • considers himself a burden for loved ones;
  • begins to use alcohol or drugs;
  • does reckless things;
  • is isolated from society;
  • calls close people to say goodbye;
  • often speaks of hopelessness (that things will never get better in the future).

Treatment options

Dr. Buzău notes that both depression and anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways, both with medications and non-pharmacological therapies. nine0003

Treatment that includes cognitive behavioral therapy helps us manage stress better and change the way we think so that we don't contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Relaxation therapy is similarly effective for some patients in treating anxiety and depression, and in dealing with stress, which can exacerbate migraine symptoms. These strategies involve calming the nervous system through meditative exercises such as deep breathing or guided visualization. nine0003

Also in the treatment of any disorder, it is especially important to adhere to the correct sleep pattern.

Keep on implementing your plans

And Dr. Buzău's main advice is not to give up on plans and not let migraines interfere with your social life.

"Be in touch with friends and family," Buzau says. "You may have to cancel your plans sometimes, you may have to interrupt meetings. But don't stop planning, because when you start to isolate, you become lonely and depressed." nine0003

The most important thing to remember is that migraine, anxiety or depression is not a death sentence for the patient, there are treatment options.


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Headache, fatigue and depression after sugar withdrawal.

What to do and should I be worried?
  • James Brown
  • Associate Professor of Biomedicine, Aston University

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Image copyright Getty Images

High sugar consumption is believed to be detrimental to health. However, giving up sugar is also not easy - in no small part because such a refusal can cause a whole range of unpleasant symptoms. What happens in our brain when we eliminate sugar from our diet?

It may surprise you, but sugar consumption (at least in the UK and other developed countries) has steadily declined over the past decade, despite all the variety of food temptations.

This could be due to a variety of factors, including changes in tastes, lifestyle, and the rise of low-carbohydrate diets such as the keto diet. A growing understanding of the dangers of excess sugar to our health is also playing a role.

Reducing sugar intake has clear benefits - for those who want to lose weight, for example, or for those who want to take care of their teeth. nine0003

But when people try to cut back on sugar, they often experience some rather unpleasant side effects, including headaches, fatigue, and frequent mood swings.

At present, we have a poor understanding of the causes of this side effect. But perhaps such symptoms can be explained by understanding how our brain reacts to sugary foods, and what the biology of the so-called reward system tells us.

Carbohydrates are a rather extensive class of organic compounds, among which are such low molecular weight carbohydrates as sugars: fructose, for example, is found in fruits, lactose - in milk. Sucrose (food sugar) is found in cane sugar, sugar beets, and maple syrup. Glucose and fructose are in honey. nine0003

Mass food production has led to sucrose and other sugars being added to food to make it more palatable. But behind this mouth-watering improvement in taste lies a profound biological effect on the brain.

This effect is so serious that it has even led to a heated debate about whether sugar is addictive, like a drug. This question has not yet been resolved.

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption,

Dietary sugar (sucrose) is a disaccharide made up of a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule attached to each other.

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Sucrose activates the sweet receptors in the mouth, which leads to the release of the hormone dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; this chemical compound transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain. nine0003

When we encounter a rewarding stimulus, the brain responds by releasing dopamine, rewarding us for eating certain foods, for example.

The "rewarding" effect of dopamine can be seen mainly in those areas of the brain that are responsible for the sensation of pleasure and reward.

Reward generally controls our behavior, pushes us to repeat again and again those actions that lead to the release of dopamine. It is dopamine that can prompt us to eat something unhealthy, junk food. nine0003

Animal and human experiments have shown how strongly sugar activates the neural pathways of the reward system in the brain. In this intense sweet taste surpasses even cocaine.

Moreover, sugar has such an effect on the brain, regardless of whether it enters the body together with what is eaten (through the mouth) or in the form of an injection (as experiments on mice have shown). This means that the effect of sugar is independent of whether taste buds are involved.

There is compelling evidence that in rats, for example, sucrose consumption can alter the structure of dopamine-excited brain regions. Emotional processing and behavior are also altered, both in animals and humans. nine0003

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Obviously, sugar has a very strong effect on us. Therefore, it is not surprising that we experience such a “breakdown” when we refuse to consume it, or at least reduce it.

Troublesome symptoms (both mental and physical) are typically reported by those in the early stages of sugar withdrawal. These symptoms include depression, increased anxiety, mental fog and irresistible cravings for sweets, accompanied by headaches, fatigue and dizziness. nine0003

So yes, cutting out sugar can be frustrating, making it hard for some of us to transition to a different diet.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

Although sugar is found in many foods, its consumption in the United States and Europe has been steadily declining

neural pathways of the reward system in the brain. Although the notion of "sugar addiction" is controversial, there is evidence in rat experiments that sugar, like other addictive substances, can induce binge drinking, cravings, and withdrawal anxiety. nine0003

Other animal studies have shown that the state of the body addicted to sugar is akin to that of a drug addict. However, most of the research in this area has been done on animals, so it's hard to judge how true this is for humans.

Neural reward pathways in the human brain are not altered by evolution, and probably similar pathways in many other organisms. Therefore, it can be assumed that the biological consequences of the rejection of sugar, which scientists see in animals, to one degree or another will be characteristic of humans. nine0003

The symptoms that people complain about when they cut sugar from their diet are almost certainly changes in the chemical balance in the brain. Dopamine, in addition to being involved in the reward system, also regulates hormonal activity, nausea and vomiting reflexes, and anxiety.

When sugar is removed from the diet, the rapid decline in dopamine exposure in the brain likely interferes with the normal functioning of neural pathways - and this explains the occurrence of unpleasant symptoms. nine0003

One of the few human studies on this topic has shown that obese, overweight adults experienced "sugar withdrawal" and irresistible cravings for sweets when sugar was removed from their diets.

What to do in such cases?

As with any transition to a new diet, the key is to stick with it and stick with it.

If you want to quit sugar for a long time, getting through the first few weeks is critical.

Learn more