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Do You Experience Migraine in Addition to Depression or Anxiety?
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Debilitating conditions including depression, anxiety, and migraine affect how many of us. Both Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, renowned authors in their own right, battled migraines and mental illness.
Much of their artistic output is inspired by their struggles with disease. There is a lot of overlap between the signs and symptoms of a migraine and those of depression. Naturally, these symptoms are significantly more troublesome if one also has both diseases.
Migraine sufferers, regardless of age or gender, have a two- to fivefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Migraine sufferers are three times as likely to get depressed than people who do not have headaches. On the other side, those with mood problems are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than those who do not suffer from mood disorders (Weitzel, 2019).
Sleep and attention issues, changes in appetite, and poor energy are all symptoms that are shared by anxiety and migraines and depression. Sadness, despair, exhaustion, and a lack of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyed activities are all symptoms of depression.
Overwhelming anxiety, dread, and anger are common anxiety and depression symptoms that may overlap with migraine symptoms. Migraine sufferers worry about the next onslaught, feel powerless in the face of their erratic symptoms, and are generally annoyed by the myriad ways in which the condition disrupts their lives.
During a migraine attack, it’s common for the sufferer to be preoccupied with thoughts about the attack itself, such as how long it will continue, whether or not the medicine will start to work, and whether or not they will be able to function at work. Future-oriented anxieties, such as concern about keeping one’s current employment, are also evident. Anxiety over when and if a migraine will develop, as well as whether or not it will interfere with plans, may affect a migraine sufferer even when a headache is not present (Smitherman, 2019).
Those who suffer from migraines may experience worry and, in some cases, sadness since they can never predict when their next episode will occur. Fatigue, lack of interest or pleasure in activities formerly liked, changes in sleep, changes in food habits, and feelings of despair and hopelessness are classic signs of depression, and they are also shared by migraines.
The combination of migraines and depression has its own set of difficulties. In certain cases, treating patients with both illnesses simultaneously might be challenging. Take, as an illustration:
- It may be more challenging to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
- Keeping up with your recommended drug schedule may become increasingly difficult.
- You may be more inclined to overmedicate in an effort to alleviate distressing symptoms.
This is the fate that befell Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, unfortunately. The picture of the taproot penetrating far into the ground in the Plath poem cited at the opening of this article may represent an inward journey into one’s own mind. Both the elm and the speaker in the poem have been where they are now—at the lowest point of their mental and emotional states. The elm confidently proclaims that the woman’s greatest worry is this terrible condition.
Despite Plath’s awareness of her inner turmoil, she did not seek therapy because of the shame and expense. Her alternative conclusion was that “masks are the order of the day — and the least I can do is create the illusion that I am cheerful, tranquil, not hollow and scared” (Plath, 2000, p. 151). Do you find yourself acquainted with the concept of putting on a mask to get through each day while you suffer from migraines and depression?
Plath’s notebooks revealed that she was suffering from depression, loss of interest and pleasure, difficulty focusing, sleeplessness, feelings of shame and worthlessness, and suicide thoughts. Her inability to work and interact socially was also impacted by her illness.
According to Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf’s early symptoms were headache, sleeplessness, and racing thoughts, and they typically lasted seven to 10 days if promptly diagnosed and treated (1964). Woolf chronicled her regular headaches in her journal from 1931 to 1935, writing at one point, “I can’t write a word; too much headache” (1982, p. 361).
Woolf suffered from bouts of depression, which she blamed on her own shortcomings rather than on a medical condition. Leonard characterised her unreasonable shame at having caused the situation as self-blame. In addition, both Plath and Woolf often rehash the stigma associated with mental illness.
Both Plath and Woolf lived in civilizations where the stigma of mental illness and migraine was deeply rooted. Woolf’s message to her husband before she committed herself reveals the hopelessness and terror of dealing with these conditions.
I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time… Suicide Note by Virginia Woolf
Although there is now greater information about and access to treatment for mental health issues and migraines, many people still perceive these conditions as signs of weakness that may be overcome by sheer will. Despite the increased accessibility of medical and psychiatric care, many individuals still avoid getting help due to fears of ridicule or judgement.
That’s where we all can step in and support one another and so many others. Each of us needs to play a part in educating others and encouraging them to seek out medical and psychological care.
It is frequently via literature that we may foster empathy and compassion, and Plath and Woolf are two great instances of artists leveraging their afflictions to produce amazing work. Although the nature of their profession and the difficulties they face may be discouraging, it is important to remember that many people had it far worse before modern medical advances.
We encourage you to seek out the words of writers who understand the anguish of dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and migraine by reading their poetry, short stories, and novels. You may discover sympathy, insight, and, in many instances, optimism, via them.
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