Depression and Migraines: An Unexpected Link
If you suffer from migraines, you know how much they disrupt your life. Migraines are chronic headaches that cause significant pain and are accompanied by neurological symptoms such as auras, nausea or vomiting. While rates of migraines are lower in South Asians than people of European descent, new research is indicating that migraines should be taken seriously on two levels: 1) because the pain can be so severe that they disrupt daily life and 2) because they seem to be connected to developing depression ( http://www.mysahana.org/2010/12/depression/ ).
Many neuropsychologists are finding that people who experience migraines are much more likely to develop depression than those without migraines. This is especially true if you have migraines with aura, meaning you see a halo of lights or develop tunnel vision prior to the onset of the headache.
What is the common link? A study published last year found that genetics might be the answer to the higher incidence of depression in people with migraines. When they studied identical twins, they found that if one twin had migraines and depression the other twin did too 30% of the time, which is much higher than had they been non-twin siblings.
More importantly, the heritability estimate (meaning the percentage explained by genetic factors) was 56%. In other words, genetics plays more than half of the role in the connection between migraines and depression. Even more surprisingly, the estimate for people with migraines with aura was 96%, meaning that the reason people with migraines and aura develop depression is almost entirely due to genetics!
Their research debunked the common misconception that people with migraines are often depressed because their headaches reduce the quality of life. While that can certainly be the case, neuropsychologists are finding that there might actually be an underlying, more concrete connection between the two.
The two existing at the same time creates a complicated picture for treatment since migraines can be so debilitating that patients may not take the extra effort to be treated for their depression. Untreated depression can lead to a worse quality of life as patients are even less likely to take care of themselves, such as eating healthy, exercising or taking medication. In addition, patients become inured to the difficulties that play out in everyday life and may assume that they have no control over improving them, which is a myth that causes many to live a lower quality life than they could have if they receive proper treatment.
Depression ( http://www.mysahana.org/2010/12/depression/ ) is one of the most easily cured emotional health issues, so it is crucial to receive appropriate treatment at the earliest sign to ensure a happier and healthier lifestyle. In addition, if the depression is treated, migraine treatment is also likely to be more successful.
Please contact a physician or a mental health professional if you have migraines and suspect that you are feeling depressed. A consultation can help design a treatment plan for your specific situation.
MySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the South Asian community. By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant information, we aim to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a dialogue about mental health and healthy living. We believe it is from these dialogues that South Asians will feel more comfortable seeking services and making the necessary changes to live a healthier life. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.mysahana.org, follow us @MySahana on Twitter and connect with us on Facebook.