Coping, Society, Treatment

Not Depressed? Read This Anyway

Depression is one of the lesser stigmatized mental illnesses, but it’s still a hard diagnosis for many people to take. It’s crucial to recognize that you aren’t at fault, nor is ignoring it an effective treatment. It’s an illness, period.

It’s quite common for people with headache to also be clinically depressed. They are considered comorbid conditions — that is, someone with a headache disorder is more likely to be depressed than someone without.

A lot of people argue that depression is a result of being in pain. Having headaches may make you sad, but sadness is not the same as depression. While the word “depression” is commonly used to describe sadness, they are not interchangeable. For some people, a headache disorder may trigger depression (sound familiar?).

This isn’t to rule out the possibility that headache may cause depression for some people. Doctors don’t generally make a distinction, but I’m prone to believing that it’s not a clear cut case of cause and effect. And, really, if it’s easier to accept a diagnosis of depression by thinking that it’s caused by headache, have at it!

What to do if you think you may be depressed? You can start by doing a self-assessment and learning about types of depression and treatments. If you’re suspicious in the slightest that you may be depressed, talk to your health care provider about it.

That’s the only way to start treating it. It may be tempting to try supplements, but they, like any medication, need to be taken with caution and full knowledge of their effects. St. John’s Wort, a frequently used “natural” remedy, interacts with more than 50 other drugs (both prescription and supplements).

Other reasons to seek treatment soon:

  • There’s evidence that depression causes changes in your brain. The longer it is untreated, the greater the effect.
  • Alcohol, a common self-treatment, just worsens depression.
  • You’ll feel better when it’s treated.

Be aware that it may take a while to treat it adequately. Research shows that 90% of people with depression will be helped by an antidepressant, but 50% don’t find the right med on the first try. Like with headache meds, you may have to try out a bunch before finding the right one.

Also like many headache meds, it takes about a month before an antidepressant begins to work. Some people (like me) need a cocktail — for which a psychiatrist is invaluable.

I’m obviously an advocate for drugs. Nothing else has worked for me. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also shown to be a good treatment. The two methods are often used together. Anything else been effective for you?

1 thought on “Not Depressed? Read This Anyway”

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful for depression, for stress management, and for pain management itself. I’m glad you are finding it to be helpful.

    What I find ironic is that depression–even bipolar disorder–seems to be a less stigmatizing diagnosis to have than migraine. Why is that? I am baffled by it.

    And even more stumped by what to do about it. It seems so difficult to get anyone but we who suffer from headaches to take it seriously.

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