Skip to content

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

Antidepressants for Migraine Headaches - Topic Overview

Antidepressant medicines, which are usually used to treat depression, can be effective in preventing migraine headaches. Antidepressants have some pain-relieving properties and may reduce duration and frequency of headaches. Antidepressants are also used to improve sleep problems.

Tricyclic antidepressants are used most to prevent migraines. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are used most often. Both have been shown to be effective in preventing migraines.1

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Understanding Migraine -- the Basics

Migraines are a type of headache that cause severe, throbbing pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light (photophobia) or sound (phonophobia). Migraine headaches generally last between four and 72 hours. Many people experience certain symptoms prior to the onset of the head pain. Symptoms that precede and herald an upcoming headache are referred to as an "aura," and usually last under an hour. Symptoms of an aura include: Changes in your vision (even brief blindness) ...

Read the Understanding Migraine -- the Basics article > >

Other antidepressants may be tried if you do not respond well to amitriptyline or nortriptyline. The choice of antidepressant to treat your migraines may depend on your ability to tolerate the side effects of the medicine.

Side effects of tricyclic antidepressants include:

Never suddenly stop taking antidepressants. The use of any antidepressant should be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a doctor. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medicine can cause negative side effects or a relapse into a depressive episode or panic disorder.

FDA advisories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued:

  • An advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
  • A warning about taking triptans, used for headaches, with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Taking these medicines together can cause a very rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Antidepressants for Migraine Headaches Topics

    Today on WebMD

    woman receiving acupuncture
    14 alternative methods for migraine relief.
    woman with migraine
    Get the truth about migraines.
     
    headache in the bedroom
    Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
    desert heat
    12 surprising headache triggers.
     
    woman with migraine
    Quiz
    drinking coffee
    Article
     
    Migraines Headaches Basics
    Article
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Slideshow
     
    young woman with migraine
    Articles
    spraying perfume
    Article
     
    man with a headache
    Article
    headache in the bedroom
    Article
     

    Special Sections