Can Depression Cause Headaches?

Up to 80 percent of adults experience tension headaches throughout their lives — sharp throbbing pains that can occur throughout multiple regions in the head. Occasionally, people with depression experience headaches caused by their condition.

Research shows that there is a link between tension headaches and mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety. One study indicated that up to 11 percent of people with mental health disorders also suffered from migraine attacks, and other research reports that 40 percent of people with migraines also suffer from depression.

What causes headaches?

Headaches come in two classifications: primary and secondary.

Primary headaches are usually brought on by lifestyle factors such as stress, alcohol abuse, and poor diet. Primary headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are often linked to other muscle aches or medical conditions. Examples include the following:

  • Sinus headaches
  • Exercise-induced headaches
  • Chronic or daily headaches
  • Sex headaches
  • Coughing headaches
  • Illness or infection
  • High blood pressure or cardiovascular issues

Headaches can come about during any time of the day, leaving most people unprepared due to their unpredictable nature. Tension and migraine headaches are usually the most associated with depression, but it can be difficult to determine if your depression is causing your headache or not.

Chronic headaches or headaches associated with muscle aches and stress may worsen or trigger depressive symptoms. Secondary headaches brought on by depression are usually tension headaches.

What are the symptoms of depression headaches?

To put it simply, a headache is just a pain in your head. That much is obvious and everyone has experienced a headache before, but the intensity and type of the headache can vary greatly.

A headache typically includes at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Sharp pain
  • Dull ache
  • Radiating pain
  • Throbbing

What is a sinus headache?

When experiencing a sinus headache, you will likely also have pain around your forehead, cheeks, and nose — this is where your sinuses are located.

Sinus headaches are not typically linked to depression, but frequent sinus headaches can be debilitating and affect your quality of life, which might make depression symptoms worse.

What is a tension headache?

Tension headaches will cause pain in the middle of your head and may also be accompanied by pain in your neck.

Tension headaches tend to develop gradually and usually come from muscle contractions around the neck or scalp area.

What are migraines?

A migraine headache develops very suddenly. Unlike most other headaches, a migraine attack can last for hours or even days. Migraines may also make you:

  • Sensitive to light and sound
  • Nauseated
  • Unable to work or perform basic tasks
  • Cancel commitments in your personal or professional life

Because of these symptoms, migraine attacks tend to occur before depression.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Hopelessness
  • Severe sadness
  • Guilt
  • Worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns — sleeping too much or too little
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Decreased libido or sex drive
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Appetite changes — eating too much or too little
  • Crying spells
  • Headaches

How do you prevent depression?

There are lots of important treatment options, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to help treat underlying depression causing headaches, including the following:

  • Eat better — A well-balanced diet of whole foods can keep your brain energized and help regulate mood.
  • Exercise — Regular exercise can keep oxygen throughout the body and can be effective at treating the symptoms of depression.
  • Reduce Stress — Learning how to manage your stress and remaining socially active can help you find relief from the symptoms of headaches and depression.

Ketamine Infusions for Depression and Migraines

Ketamine infusions are an exciting new treatment option for depression and other mood disorders. Ketamine started as an FDA-approved anesthetic, but in the last decade has gained popularity as a rapid relief from depression and anxiety when infused at a low dose into the bloodstream. Research shows that up to 80% of patients will find relief when using Ketamine infusions as a treatment for their depression.