Possible connection between migraines and depression with fatigue?

For most of my life I’ve experienced fatigue and headaches. It wasn’t until relatively recently though that it occurred to me that my fatigue might be related to having migraines. In 2009 after reading about the connection between mood disorders and migraines I convinced my GP to let me try Valproate to prevent migraines. During that time though I experienced a psychotic reaction and the focus on treating the migraines was some how lost. I also tried Propanolol but it had such a sedating effect I couldn’t tolerate it for long. I felt like I was about to pass out the entire time I was on it.

A young woman holding her painful head

A young woman holding her painful head

Recently after some reflection it occurred to me that the symptoms that I was experiencing for most of my life in addition to the fatigue were those of a migraine. A few of those symptoms include the following: problems with temperature regulation, stiffness in neck and jaw, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, tingling sensation, problems finding the right word, stomach problems and sleepiness. According to research people with chronic fatigue are more likely to experience migraines. These studies according to Healthrising support my hypothesis to a degree.

Two studies suggest as many as 75% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome experience migraines and that most migraines in ME/CFS are undiagnosed.  Agreeing that migraines are common in ME/CFS, WebMD, which has very little to say otherwise about chronic fatigue syndrome, states ME/CFS is one of five disorders  with high migraine rates.

Given the long list of migraine symptoms and the considerable overlap with ME/CFS symptoms (visual disturbances, sensitivity to light/sound, weakness, pins and needles, speech problems, nausea, vomiting, increased urination, etc) .the low diagnostic rates may not be surprising.

What additionally supports my hypothesis is that my chronic fatigue started around age twelve which coincided with the start of menstruation. Women according to statistics are more likely to have migraines, depression and chronic fatigue. Oddly, I also occasionally experienced a brief remission of depression and fatigue during menses.

I think my migraine like headaches started when I was rather young, age six. Around that time I experienced a concussion after falling off of a bike. My pediatrician thought at the time that my headache was related to diet- specifically chocolate. At this time after reading about head trauma and migraines I think my condition might have something to do with the concussion and it might be exacerbated by diet and hormone levels.

There is also an epileptic or kindling connection here. According to some recent research migraines are a type of seizure and kindling in the past has also been used to try to explain the recurrent nature of major depression. This is an excerpt from a 2014 study that examined the relationship between seizures and migraines.

What they found was completely unexpected. Adding basic conservation principles to the older models immediately demonstrated that spikes, seizures and spreading depression were all part of a spectrum of nerve cell behavior. It appeared that decades of observations of different phenomena in the brain could share a common underlying link.

The idea though that my fatigue could be a low level migraine is controversial because it differs from the definition of a chronic migraine. A chronic migraine includes many of the symptoms that I listed above however it includes moderate pain as a criteria. I generally experience the pain as mild. Perhaps I should try to more aggressively and persistently pursue this migraine hypothesis. I generally don’t have much faith in my insights but maybe I should since many have been supported in the past.