Are your headaches a result of depression? If you suffer headaches daily or have a headache as soon as you wake up in the morning which last most of the day and have troubled you for months, you may be suffering from depression-linked headaches. If you suspect you suffer from depression triggered headaches, over-the-counter medication will only treat the symptoms, not the root of the problem. Your doctor will be able to prescribe a treatment plan that will help relieve your headaches.
A continuous headache for which no specific cause can be found is a typical symptom in patients suffering with depression. Although the shame surrounding depression has lessened greatly in the last twenty years, many people still find it difficult to admit their feelings of depression. However, they feel that the “real” symptoms of the headache are more acceptable than the depression itself.
Depression headaches more difficult to diagnose
In fact, because of this shame related to depression, patients will often make it difficult for doctors to diagnose their depression. Although doctors are taught that a person suffering with depression should show all the classic symptoms of moving slowly, looking sad, speaking slowly in a flat voice and showing little interest in enjoyable activities, these symptoms are sometimes not present because the patient may be covering their depression up. Since many people harbor feelings of shame associated with depression they often put on a happy front and downplay their suffering as a way to cover up what they see as a taboo “mental disorder.” Even though they know they need help, they cover up their depression even when describing their problems to their doctor.
Symptoms of depression-related headaches
Along with text book symptoms, doctors should also look for the following symptoms to properly diagnose a case of depression related headaches. These symptoms include:
- Inadequate or too much sleep
- Waking up too early
- Increase or loss of appetite
- Excessive smoking and drinking
- Diminished interest in previously enjoyed leisure activities
- Diminished sexual desire and activity
How a depression-related headache feels
The most common type of headache pain depression patients generally complain of is a tension-type headache. These pains are generally caused by muscle contractions. Without even realizing it, anxious or depressed people are often tense, in turn this tension will make the muscles of their neck, jaw, and scalp tighten up. If this muscle contraction continues for any length of time, the tiny blood vessels in the affected areas – in this case the head – may break. This breakage affects the blood flow and results in the severe headache pain associated with depression.
Depression manifests emotionally and physically
Depression affects much more than a person’s emotions, this condition can also manifest itself in physical symptoms. A caring, competent doctor will realize that even though the headache is a symptom of depression, the pain associated with the headache is very real and can affect the patient’s everyday activities. Depression triggered headaches are often described as a tight, vice-like band of pressure around the head. If a patient says that they have been having headaches fitting this description for months or even years, this should cue the doctor to take a careful, detailed headache history. These depression related headaches often have a distinct pattern, frequently occurring in the early hours of the morning or evening.
Treatment for depression-related headaches
In many cases of depression related headaches, pain medications rarely work well, so the aim of treatment should be the depression itself, which is the main cause of these headaches. Good treatments for depression include antidepressant medications as well as biofeedback.
However, depression and headaches can be a sort of chicken and egg situation. While some headaches stem from an ongoing case of depression, some patients become depressed because they suffer recurring headaches. This depression can worsen if the doctor pays too much attention to the physical pain and ignores the emotional affects of the discomfort.
While these depression triggered headaches can be successfully treated, treatment is a two-way process, which will require time, cooperation and complete honesty on the patient’s part.