Understanding Headaches Secondary to Depression
Recent studies have shown that there is a connection between depression and headaches. According to the director of the Montefiore Headache Center, NYC and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Richard B. Lipton, MD, people who suffer from migraines are more likely to experience depression than the rest of the population. Also, those with chronic migraine problems have a bigger chance of facing depression than those who endure random migraine episodes from time to time. This connection is said to be true in reverse as people battling with depression are more likely to experience migraine episodes as well. Non-migraine headaches can also contribute to a person’s depression. However, the risk of a person going through a period of depression developing non-migraine headaches does not increase.
Causes of Headaches Secondary to Depression
The sensation of pain and a person’s mood are controlled by the same part of the brain, making it possible for treatment for depression and pain overlap. While there is a clear connection between depression and headaches, the true cause of a headache secondary to depression is still quite unclear. What’s clear, though, is that the pain experienced by a person with depression is amplified compared to people who are not clinically depressed. Each patient is different, which makes it difficult to determine whether the headache triggered the depression or whether depression caused the pain. The best way to determine the cause of one’s headache is to see a headache specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Depression and Headaches
The emotional and psychological symptoms of depression are not as apparent as the physical manifestations of the problem. Oftentimes, the issue of depression is overlooked, especially when the pain and the headaches become so severe that the focus is placed on finding relief for the pain and not much attention is given to see if there’s an issue of depression that may be a factor in causing these painful headaches.
A person going through depression may have a lower tolerance to pain, and what is bearable to most may be the worst pain they’ve ever felt. The headaches associated with depression, aside from migraine headaches, are tension-headaches. It is said that the pain a person feels from tension headaches comes from the muscles in the scalp and neck area contracting. Of course, not all tension and migraine headaches are caused by depression. There are certain indicators doctors use to include or exclude depression as the cause of the headache. Doctors often run tests in order to find out whether a headache was caused by an organic disease before coming to the conclusion that the patient is experiencing a headache secondary to depression.
One of the indicators that a person is experiencing depression-related headaches is how they describe the physical pain they feel. Oftentimes, depressives describe their headaches as a dull, generalized ache that gets worse both in the morning and evening. They also often describe the duration of the pain as something they’ve experienced for years or something that they’ve been living with their whole lives.
The key to determining the root cause of one’s headaches is to consult a doctor immediately. It’s important to seek the help of a headache specialist if one suspects that he or she is experiencing the symptoms of depression and headaches for proper treatment.