Depression as a prodrome symptom

I was in a funk and couldn’t shake it. I’d been sinking deeper for at least two days and now was on the verge of tears. There was no particular reason for my dark mood, yet everything was getting on my nerves. I was so overwhelmed that even simple tasks seemed impossible. By the end of that second day, I couldn’t hold back anymore. The tears fell as I collapsed in a heap on the floor. Not having a reason for this melancholy was exasperating. Telling myself to snap out of it was useless. I was trapped in a dark abyss with no way out.

On the morning of the third day I awoke with a familiar churn in the pit of my stomach and a haze in my head that could mean only one thing. Migraine was in the house. Strangely enough, as soon as the headache phase began, my mood suddenly lifted. That bottomless pit of misery dissolved into blue skies within minutes. The darkness in my soul was replaced by a pounding throb in my head.

Honestly, physical pain is preferable. I’d much prefer to experience the nauseating electro-chemical explosion over that sickening cesspool of toxic emotional darkness. I have the tools to combat the pain. Depression is so much harder to break through. A true depressive episode is manageable with therapy and medication. It grows slowly and is easier to recognize. This depressive prodrome is something quite different. It hits harder and faster with no warning. The only blessing is that the dark mood is short-lived.

Yet it always catches me by surprise. I never see it coming or make the connection until just before the headache phase hits. It happens with every single menstrual migraine. Changing hormone and neurotransmitter levels interact to create this perfect storm. Attacks hit back-to-back for two or three days before the storm finally subsides. In the aftermath my brain returns to its once-weekly Botox-suppressed blip of a migraine and life goes on. Once again, I resolve to not be caught off guard. I promise myself to pay attention, track my moods, and count the days. Yet the darkness catches me by surprise EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I can’t be the only one to experience this type of prodrome. Some of you probably experience a depressed mood right before a migraine attack, too. Can you see it coming or recognize what is happening in the moment? What strategies do you employ to cope?

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

View Comments (23)
  • Cathy
    3 years ago

    I often get depressed or weepy or just plain bad tempered before a migraine and I’m post menopausal so it’s not monthly fluctuations for me.

  • JanetH
    3 years ago

    I’ve been having more migraines for about a month now. I suspect this is somehow related to menopause, as I’m also having increased hot flashes during the day and night. Along with it, I’ve struggled more with increased anxiety and depression. I’m glad to know that some others are out there with the same issue. I’m currently taking 1200 mg of Neurontin/day. Earlier this winter, when I was struggling awhile, the dr. upped it to 1400 for 2 weeks, then back down to 1200. I think the Neurontin keeps me functional, inasmuch as I can go to work (thank God, cuz I know a lot of folks can’t). But I’d like to think that life could be more enjoyable then work, tired, headache, repeat as needed. I also tend toward anxiety and obsessive thinking, so the mood issues have been tough. I tried two anti-depressants several years ago when I went through a divorce, and neither one seemed to fit well. I know there are others out there, but just reluctant after two fails, plus I’m on several meds for asthma and allergies. So, not trying to be John Wayne, but feel like I’ve given meds for depression a decent try. I drink moderately, try not to overdo caffeine or sugar, try to keep to mild exercise. That’s been tougher, as I have exercise-induced asthma, and now I have arthritis in my feet, so walking isn’t as pleasurable. This all gets discouraging, as I’m sure everyone knows.

  • Chy
    3 years ago

    It was such a relief to read this as I’ve been going through a3 day bout of really bad almost manic depressive state and have no idea why! I guess it’s the sign of a bad migraine coming on! I just realized that a few of my other migraine prodrome symptoms have been present on and off too. I forget that depression can be related to the migraine as I only get this bad every few months at most… but now that I think about it, I was like this the same time the past 2 years in late April. I wonder if it’s a weather-induced migraine? I don’t understand these and I’ve had them going on 2 1/2 years after a head injury. Before them I had cluster headaches, from a more severe Graf injury but those were just a constant, triggered by stress. These migraines have so many triggers. I’m grateful to have found this website to learn more! Thank you for sharing this post!

  • Cathy
    3 years ago

    Yes I also can go the other way and be bursting with energy and be really happy

  • Rebecca Cheshire
    3 years ago

    I suffer severe basilar migraine and get forgetful and disoriented a few days before an attack. I suffer my worst depression during and particularly after an attack. I call it my ‘I can’t take this any more phase’ – my migraine hangover that leaves me feeling so low and depressed. I put this down to my inability to cope with all the stages of an attack but I’m am beginning to believe these are just symptoms of an attack. I always thought I had a bit of a depression issue but maybe this is linked to my menstual migraines!

  • Melanie
    3 years ago

    I am somewhat opposite. I feel a deep depression, and moodiness as a migraine ramps up, and when I have the rare chance to be in postdrome for more than 12 hours, I am nearly manic with euphoria.

  • Melanie
    3 years ago

    I am somewhat opposite. I feel a deep depression, and moodiness as a migraine ramps up, and when I have the rare chance to be in prodrome for more than 12 hours, I am nearly manic with euphoria.

  • penina
    3 years ago

    I get suicidal depression as a migraine prodrome occasionally, I usually fail to realize what it is until almost the end. Usually this is before very severe migraine. More often I get irritability as a prodrome symptom and with that too it’s usually gone on a while before I figure out what’s going on. I’m getting better at it though.

  • marti
    3 years ago

    I get really irritable and panicky about 24 hours before the migraine ramps up. I call it the end-of-the-world syndrome, because that’s what it feels like. The REALLY weird symptom comes an hour or two before the pain – a sense of euphoria and joy so strong it feels like my soul is leaving my body. The sensation is indescribable. This only happens with the worst migraines and I wonder if my brain is releasing endorphins to combat the pain it knows is coming.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi marti, Thanks for taking the time to share your symptoms. This helps to bring much comfort to so many in the community to know that they are not alone especially when not the “norm” are experienced. I have two articles I’d like to share with you as they address the exact topic of “The strange early signs of a migraine attack” https://migraine.com/infographic/strange-early-signs-migraine-attack/ and https://migraine.com/blog/what-is-a-migraine-prodrome/comment-page-1/#comments. Be sure to check out the comments at the conclusion of each article where you can read member feedback regarding their symptoms as well.

    Thanks again for taking the time comment and especially for being part of our community!

    Take care,
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • JanetH
    3 years ago

    I get more irritable as a prodrome emotional symptom. But I have also noticed depression. Hate, hate those menstrual migraines. I feel for ya.

  • Lori
    3 years ago

    I can totally relate to what you’ve been going through Tammy! I never used to have this as a migraine symptom but in the past couple of years I definitely have this! For me it hits within two hours of an attack and now I can identify it and that does help me realize it isn’t just a ‘mood’ but a symptom of migraine! Knowing what it is helps and I take my medication a bit earlier and that does seem to work so I don’t have a full blown attack!

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Would you like to participate in an ongoing conversation about this topic? Maybe together we can figure out how to recognize this one earlier and discover some workable coping strategies. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, tips, etc. at https://migraine.com/topic/prodrome-depressed-mood/.

  • NeuroMom
    3 years ago

    I’ve recently recognized this mood deficit type prodrome in myself. Last week I had a day in which I was side-lined with a seemingly flat affect and quite near-catatonic motions/emotions. I felt as though my serotonin/dopamine/whichever neutotransmitter(s) had somehow rapidly depleted or dropped off. I felt generally depleted and fatigued in an unusual way. I also felt a sense of a loss of hope for no apparent reason. I could not tolerate any stimuli. Then a slight headache began which quickly merged into a full blown burning, aching migraine which only my Triptan (at home) could relieve, with the assistance of Mr. ice pack. (Added the need for darkness over the eyes, low noise and the various non-stop position changes and/or rocking until the vice grip lets go). I’m interested to read more about this and learn ways to recognize this particular prodrome presenting as an aura, which conceivably is impossible to ‘catch’.

  • Danielle
    3 years ago

    This is a new symptom for me. I’m in the middle of a migraine attack right now and two days ago I was in a depressive pit from hell. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years, but this wasn’t the same thing. It was like you described – sudden, intense, and consuming. This is only the second time it’s happened to me and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

  • Jan
    3 years ago

    Mine is a little different, but that could be because I have chronic depression and take meds for it already. That depression manifests as anger and frustration if untreated. Instead, a few hours before a migraine I become what I call “weepy,” being very emotional and sensitive. The smallest thing will start tears, but this fortunately only lasts a couple hours, not like yours, Tammy. It’s so pronounced that it has become one of the signals of a migraine for me, which I guess is a good thing. Thanks for the article.

  • RobertCan
    3 years ago

    You are not alone! I’m on day 3 of a migraine that won’t resolve. Can’t catch a break. That in itself is depressing as pain wears down the spirit. I’m also fighting cancer. I do get that sense of dread in prodome, but not always. Like everything else about migraines, nothing seems consistent. Best wishes.

  • Es Sie
    3 years ago

    I have the same problem. My mood goes from up to so down that i’m not sure about stuff anymore. I’ve been taking 5-HTP and the depression is much less. There is lot’s of info on the Internet about it in relation to migraine. Good luck with the battle

  • Macbeck
    3 years ago

    Once I was actually giddy for the day before the migraine hit, and depression does appear sometimes. For me there was never an apparent menstrual factor to the migraines.

  • Kelster
    3 years ago

    I usually have a depressive episode about 24-48 hrs. before a migraine. I also never see it coming. Once a migraine hits then I realize why I felt so awful emotionally. I haven’t found anything that helps. Hopefully others have.

  • Diane1010
    3 years ago

    Sadly, ditto. A few weeks ago I was cursing hormones. Exhaustion and depression Prodrome are sneaky and debilitating. I second guess myself continually because I have no uterus, and I’m at that older age of peri-menopause. It’s like hormone roulette.

  • SleepyBri
    3 years ago

    I tend to have more mood related prdrome symptoms during menstrual migraines as well. For me it’s irrabiity and hypercritical.

    For other migraines, I’ve noticed I actuality have increased mood in the prodrome.

  • JanetH
    3 years ago

    Me, too, re: irritability. Dislike that in myself. I’ve noticed it’s right before a migraine; or, I’m actually having a “mild” one and trying to work through it.

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