The Emotional Turbulence of Gaining Weight on a Migraine Preventive

Weight gain is a significant side effect of many migraine medications. It is a concern I take seriously when other people ask me about medication side effects, but I wasn’t personally worried about it. I thought that any relief from debilitating migraine would be worth an extra few (or 20 or 30…) pounds to me.

Until, two months after I started taking cyproheptadine, I stepped on the scale and it screamed “YOU ARE FAT!” That’s the day I discovered that there’s a psychological magic number on the scale – a number that doesn’t seem like a big deal until you exceed it. (And, yes, I also discovered that I have Body Image Issues.)

Even though I’d watched my diet carefully, I had gained 10 pounds. Although 10 pounds isn’t much, I could only imagine a future of an ever-increasing weight while on the drug. I began to worry if I was trading a reduction in migraine severity for other, weight-related health problems. Suddenly I understood why people would stop taking a drug that helped their migraines because it made then gain weight. And I felt like a bit of a jerk for not really getting it before.

Prior to starting cyproheptadine, I thought I would do anything, even gain 70 pounds, to reduce the migraines. Now I understand there’s a cost-benefit analysis: The cost, weight gain, has to be balanced against the amount the severity and/or frequency of migraine attacks are reduced. Seventy pounds would probably be worth it if my daily migraine attacks happened once a month instead. Too bad treatment results are rarely that clear. I decided that 10 pounds to reduce the pain from a level 7 each day to a 5 or 6 is worth it, though I can’t say the weight gain didn’t nag at me.

This freak-out happened last fall. Ultimately, I gained 13 pounds on cyproheptadine before my weight stabilized. As much as I’d like to say I reached weight-related enlightenment, it bothered me every day. I was thrilled to lose four four pounds after starting Ritalin as a migraine preventive.

Shame and embarrassment keep swallowing me up when I think about posting this essay. I hate that my weight occupies so much of my thought when the weight gain is both relatively minor and for a good reason. I also have a voice in my head saying, “Get over yourself.” Even at 13 pounds above my ideal, I am a healthy weight in anyone’s perspective but my own. However, I’ve also realized there’s not much room for objectivity in the personal, psychological understanding of one’s own weight.

So I will share my emotional turmoil in the hope that it will help someone else struggling with migraine-related weight gain, whether through medication or inactivity. And I will hold my breath that I am not barraged with insults for doing so.

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 (14)

Poll