Do Antidepressants Like Citalopram Prevent Migraines?

Risks and Side Effects of SSRIs, like Citalopram, in Migraine Prevention


Citalopram — brand name Celexa— is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, that is sometimes used off-label to prevent migraines — although the science supporting this is not great.

Let's learn about why citalopram or another SSRI might be prescribed for you and what to watch out for.

Is Citalopram Really Used to Prevent Migraines?

As a SSRI, citalopram is classically used to treat major depression disorder.

Sometimes, though, citalopram is used off-label — meaning it has not been approved by the FDA — to prevent migraines. This is usually done when a person suffers from both migraines and depression.

That being said, while there is a definite link between migraines and depression —meaning a higher percentage of migraineurs have depression than the general population — there is no robust scientific data confirming the effectiveness of citalopram for preventing migraines.

In fact, a large 2005 review study found that SSRIs were no more effective in preventing migraines than placebo. Still, it does seem to work for some people — especially if there is a concrete tie between their migraines and their depressed mood. 

What Should I Tell My Doctor if He Wants to Prescribe Me Citalopram?

If your doctor offers citalopram as a way to prevent your migraines, be sure to tell him your complete medical history, as well as provide him with a list of all your medications, including over-the-counter medications or supplements.

Certain medications can interact with citalopram and some are contraindicated, as in the case of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. 

What Should I be Careful of if Taking Citalopram?

Citalopram can impair a person's judgment, thinking, or movement — so be cautious when operating hazardous machines, like a car, until you are certain you are safe to do so.

Also, it's advised not to drink alcohol when taking citalopram.

It's also important to speak with your doctor if you become pregnant, are planning a pregnancy, or are breastfeeding while taking citalopram. 

In addition, take your medication as directed and never change your dosage or stop taking citalopram without first consulting your doctor. 

What are the Potential Side Effects of Citalopram?

Citalopram may cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Decreased libido and anorgasmia has been reported in women who took citalopram. Decreased libido, impotence, and problems with ejaculation has been reported in men who took citalopram. 

Other potential common side effects include:

There are a number of other possible side effects that a person may experience with citalopram. Please speak with your doctor if any side effects do not go away or are worrying you. 

What Does This All Mean for Me?

If you have both depression and migraines, there is a chance that your SSRI, like citalopram, will also benefit your migraines.

While the science is not great to support this, it may work for some people. 


FDA. Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide). Retrieved December 2nd 2015. 

Ferguson JM. SSRI Antidepressant Medications: Adverse Effects and Tolerability. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2001 Feb;3(1):22-27.

Moja PL, Cusi C, Sterzi RR, & Canepari C. Selective serotoning re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for preventing migraine and tension-type headaches. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20;(3):CD002919.

Rampello L et al. Evaluation of the prophylactic efficacy of amitriptyline and citalopram, alone or in combination, in patients with comorbidity of depression, migraine, and tension-type headache. Neuropsychobiology. 2004;50(4):322-8.

Material on this page is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your physician or pharmacist regarding medications.

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