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Debunking Misconceptions about Depression

Depression is one of the most common co-existing conditions seen in migraine patients, and migraine suffers are at least two times more likely than the general population to suffer from major depressive disorder. This is particularly true in the case of chronic migraine. Despite how prevalent depression is in the migraine community, however, many migraineurs still harbor a number of misconceptions about depression that keep them from getting help when they need it.

Misconception #1: You’ll know depression when you see it. Most of us have an image in our heads of a depressed person lying in bed, unable or unwilling to get up, with the curtains drawn at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The truth, through, is that depression looks different on everyone. While many people cry and experience profound sadness when they are depressed, other people feel emotionally “blank” or numb instead. Some people get irritable or experience intense angry outbursts. Others throw themselves headfirst into projects and/or work harder than ever. Just because you manage to get up in the morning doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong. Learn the warning signs of depression and pay attention when you notice changes in your sleeping or eating patterns or in the level of enjoyment you get from your favorite activities.

Misconception #2: You’ll feel depression all at once. Depression can hit hard, especially following a traumatic or difficult life event, but it also can sneak up on you. In fact, dysthymia – a form of clinical depression that tends to last for at least two years – often develops gradually. Since there is some evidence that untreated depression increases the likelihood of migraines transforming from episodic to chronic, it is important to monitor your mental health. Even little changes in your wellbeing may be important.

Misconception #3: It’s all in your head. Many of depression’s most notable symptoms are mental ones – feelings of sadness, anxiety, confusion, and hopelessness, for example – but there are numerous physical symptoms as well. If you’re depressed, you may experience slowed movement, slowed cognition, lack of energy, fatigue, stomach problems, body aches, and increased headaches or migraines. Make sure to be aware of these symptoms. Sometimes, a change in energy level or appetite may be your first clue that something isn’t right.

Misconception #4: You’re too young to worry about depression. While older adults do have an increased risk of depression in general, researchers at the University of Toronto found that younger migraine sufferers, especially women, were actually more likely to suffer from depression than their older peers. In fact, according to the study, women under the age of 30 were six times more likely to be depressed than people aged 65 and older.

Misconception #5: You’ll have to take medication to get better. Medicine can and does help many people recover from depression, but it isn’t the only way to get better. Psychotherapy and counseling, mindfulness and meditation, lifestyle changes, and exercise all have been shown to be effective in treating depression. If you think you’re depressed, see your physician or a mental health professional right away to determine which approach may be the best one for you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Piglet
    5 years ago

    I have chronic migraines. I was put on an antidepressant (cymbalta) five years ago by a rheumatologist who thought it would help the migraine neck and knee pain. It helped the knee pain. After gaining 30 pounds and feeling extremely sluggish, a year ago my certified migraine specialist put me on Vibrid. I started acting erratically and feeling quite ill, and was having trouble with performing my job for the first time (more than the usual migraine trouble). The migraine specialist sent me for an MRI (with and without), nothing much there but typical migraine changes, so I was sent to a psychiatrist. No one paid any attention to the fact that I changed medication, and the psychiatrist after checking off a few boxes thought I “might” be bipolar. For the first time. At age 54. As it turns out, I may have had Serotonin syndrome due to the combo of Cymbalta and Vibrid and the triptans. If you seek help for depression, you will be put on one of these medications. A combination could kill you. My blood pressure went from low normal to high and I started having brief blackouts and twitches. A psychiatrist will practically demand that you take meds and most will not treat you unless you take them, and they will send you to a psychologist or social worker for therapy anyway. These drugs are the devil and they do not like to let you go. Taking these meds, even if not for depression specifically, will mark you. I am now having trouble getting through the life insurance bureaucracy due to all the inquiries regarding both the migraines and “depression.” If you feel you need it, do it, but be forewarned: there is stigma, and the medical community is quick to prescribe and slow to catch on to problems in the pill mill.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Piglet,

    I’m sorry that happened to you. Serotonin syndrome can be a real problem, especially if your doctors aren’t coordinating with each other and/or your pharmacist and you’re taking the meds for an off-label use like migraine. Thankfully for those who do suffer from depression, there are other ways to cope with depression besides medication. I hope you have found something that helps with your migraines.

  • BethBlue
    6 years ago

    Damn. I’ve sensed for a long time that my depression has been resurfacing and exacerbating, but after reading this, I know it for certain. What troubles me the most is the stigma of it all: going back into therapy; changing my medication (I’ve been on Effexor XR for what seems like forever); and the whole “going public” thing. I just don’t want to get on the bandwagon all over again — depression + migraines have worn me down too much. 🙁

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    BethBlue,

    I understand your concerns. The stigma can be an issue, but just know that many of us suffer from depression and migraines – you aren’t alone. Feeling like others know and understand what you’re going through can be a real help during tough times. I hope you feel better soon.

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