Authoritative Anxiety And Headaches Guide: Does Anxiety Cause Headaches?

Headaches are one of the most common and widespread types of pain. However, does anxiety cause headaches? Whether anxiety-caused or not, headaches are also some of the most frustrating to deal with because they have so many different potential causes. Different people experience headaches for different reasons and in different locations.

Fortunately, there exists a great deal of information about which triggers tend to result in headaches more often than others, and this knowledge can be applied directly to your own situation if you suffer from frequent headaches as a result of stress or anxiety.

Anxiety can cause headaches such as tension headaches, migraines, and others due to levels of stress, sleep changes, increased uptake of stimulants such as caffeine, and altering the level of neurotransmitters in the brain among other reasons. All anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to cause daily or regular headaches.

Understanding why your head hurts can help you address the source and eliminate it once and for all. In this article, we will explore whether or not anxiety can cause headaches, and if so, how?

Can Anxiety Cause Headaches?

Anxiety can cause headaches such as tension headaches, migraines, and others due to levels of stress, sleep changes, increased uptake of stimulants such as caffeine, and altering the level of neurotransmitters in the brain among other reasons. All anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to cause daily or regular headaches

Anxiety is an extremely common psychological condition that is characterized by feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, and general unease. It is not an unusual symptom of anxiety to experience headaches.

In fact, they are one of the most common side effects of anxiety. It is prevalent in different types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder.

A number of different elements can contribute to headaches being caused by anxiety, including overall levels of stress that are brought on by anxiety; a change in diet or sleep habits; an increase in consumption of stimulants like caffeine; or a sense of restlessness or a lack of focus.

When you are constantly worried like in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), it may result in tension headaches. Thus, in the diagnosis of GAD and other anxiety disorders, most doctors inquire if you have been having frequent headaches.

There are a few different proposed theories, and the one that applies to you may depend on which type of headache you experience. Most researchers agree that headaches induced by anxiety are most commonly tension headaches, but there is some evidence that migraines may also be caused by anxiety.

This is much less likely than with a tension headache, but it is worth mentioning. The most widely accepted explanation of how anxiety causes headaches starts with the idea that when you’re stressed, your body releases certain hormones and chemicals that are meant to help you respond to the situation.

Anxiety is a type of stress, so these chemicals often cause problems in people with anxiety. The chemicals can affect the muscles and nerves in your head and neck, causing the muscles in your head to spasm, which can cause headaches.

Does Anxiety Cause Headaches?

Why Does Anxiety Cause Headaches?

There are a wide variety of reasons why anxiety may cause headaches or trigger them in people who suffer from headaches as a result of other triggers. There are a few distinct mechanisms by which anxiety can lead to headaches, including:

  • Hyperventilation and over-breathing: Hyperventilation is a common response to anxiety, and it can often lead to an increase in headaches as a result.
  • Blood pressure changes: Anxiety can also lead to blood pressure changes that can lead to headaches, particularly in people who already experience high blood pressure.
  • Stress on the body: Anxiety can be extremely taxing on the body, and headaches are a very common result, particularly in people who already experience headaches.
  • Sleep changes: Anxiety can often lead to changes in sleep patterns and a lack of the necessary rest, which can also lead to headaches.
  • Other factors: Anxiety can also lead to headaches in people who suffer from migraine headaches.

Other Ways That Anxiety May Cause Headaches

Other than the psychological and physical causes of headaches in people with anxiety, headaches can be as a result of the following in people with anxiety:

  • Anxiety and stress can also cause headaches by altering the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • Anxiety can also lead to a change in diet and an increase in caffeine and sugar intake.
  • Anxiety can cause a feeling of restlessness and an inability to focus, which can lead to headaches.
  • Anxiety can also cause muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and head, which can lead to headaches.

All these effects of anxiety can also work together to cause regular headaches. It is important to discuss with your doctor when you experience regular headaches especially with anxiety being the cause.

Types of Headaches That Are Caused By Anxiety

Tension headaches and migraines are the most common types of headaches that stress-induced. They can be caused by chronic stress, as well as anxiety.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are usually located in the back of the head, but they can also occur at the front and sides. They are commonly described as pressure or tightness in the head, and can be moderate to severe in intensity. They are often associated with muscle spasms in the neck, which can cause the muscles in the head to be painful.

Tension headaches are usually not accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting. However, some people may experience visual disturbances, such as seeing spots, or feeling a blurring of their vision.

While stress-induced tension headaches are common, they may not always be a result of anxiety, but rather chronic stress. This is important to understand, as each condition causes different treatment options.

However, most research suggests that tension headaches are the most likely type of stress-induced headaches. This is true regardless of whether someone has a diagnosed anxiety disorder or not. However, it may be more likely in people who suffer from anxiety.

In most cases, anxiety-induced headaches will be tension headaches. Like all headaches, the frequency, duration, and intensity of anxiety-induced headaches can vary widely between individuals.

In some cases, they can be quite severe and debilitating, while in others they may be so mild as to be barely noticeable. Fortunately, the same is true of all other types of headaches.

It is also important to note that not all people who experience anxiety will have a headache as a result. Similarly, not all people who have a headache are experiencing it as a result of anxiety.

Migraines

The other type of anxiety caused headaches are migraines. Migraines are types of headaches that are quite debilitating that they can markedly reduce the way you conduct your normal activities.

It’s not always easy to distinguish between migraine and tension headaches, particularly if you get both sorts. A migraine can cause pain that feels like a throb or pulsation, a tingling sensation on one side of your face or head, flashing lights, increased sensitivity to sounds, lights, and strong odors, nausea, and vomiting, feeling light-headed or fainting, blurry vision, and so on.

Without any treatment, migraine attacks can last for days. It’s so painful that it can make you unable to perform your usual activities. Physically moving or exercising can make you feel worse.

Characteristics of stress headaches

Stress is the most common cause of headaches, and anxiety is one of the most common types of stress. Stress in most cases causes stress headaches which is characterized by the following:

  • Anxiety triggers headaches, and headaches can also trigger anxiety.
  • Anxiety causes headaches that are a direct result of the strain on the body and the brain.
  • Stress headaches are often a daily occurrence in those with anxiety.
  • Stress headaches are often accompanied by a feeling of a band tightening around the head.
  • Stress headaches are often an intense throbbing in the temples.

Signs That You May Be Having An Anxiety Attack Which Cause Headaches

Although not all headaches are caused by anxiety, there are a few signs that you may be experiencing an anxiety attack which could result in a headache. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to pay careful attention to them, as they could be warning signs that you are about to experience a more severe attack.

Signs that you may be in the process of having an anxiety attack include:

  • Being more aware of your breathing and feeling like you have less control over it
  • Experiencing unusual feelings in your body, such as tingling or numbness
  • Experiencing racing thoughts, which can cause you to have trouble focusing and concentrating
  • Experiencing feelings of dread or worry, and a general negative outlook on the future
  • Experiencing feelings of nervousness or fear
  • You feel a tightness in your chest or difficulty breathing
  • A feeling of pressure in your head
  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Hot flushes
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Changes in your vision
  • Your muscles feel tense
  • Your stomach feels sick
  • Your head feels like it’s going to explode
  • The room is spinning
  • Your hands are shaking
  • You’re experiencing a loss of appetite
  • You have a metallic taste in your mouth

What does an anxiety headache feel like?

There are many symptoms that people experience when they have anxiety. Anxiety in most cases leads to stress which has a resulting tension headaches or migraine. Anxiety headaches are often triggered by stress, particularly in people who already suffer from chronic and daily headaches.

People with anxiety-induced headaches experience tense muscles around the neck, head, and face. The other symptoms of anxiety headaches are having a tender neck, shoulders, and scalp. Moreover, they will also have a squeezing pain around the head that may feel like a tight band.

Tension headaches symptoms include:

  • A tension headache may also be experienced as a throbbing pain around or behind the temples or as a general and chronic ache throughout the head and neck.
  • A tension headache may also be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, or difficulty concentrating.
  • Anxiety headaches are often felt as a tightening or pressure around the head and neck.

Anxiety headaches are often triggered by changes in sleep patterns, diet, or caffeine intake.

How To Stop Anxiety From Causing Headaches?

The best ways of managing headaches are to get rid of the anxiety and stress. That way, you will be able to cure the anxiety-caused headaches once and for all.

If you know what your triggers are, you will be able to take steps to avoid them and reduce their impact. If you are able to avoid these triggers, you may also be able to avoid experiencing headaches as a result of anxiety.

Although there is no cure for anxiety, it is possible to reduce your symptoms and live a full and rewarding life. Part of this may include reducing the frequency of headaches that you experience as a result of anxiety.

You can implement a few simple strategies to help prevent headaches due to anxiety. Start by recognizing your triggers, whether it be a specific situation or something in your daily routine. Once you are more aware of the situations that cause you stress, you can work towards reducing their impact on your life.

The following are the ways to stop anxiety from causing headaches:

  • Reduce stress: The best way to stop anxiety from causing headaches is to reduce your stress levels. This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths every time you feel overwhelmed. You can also try meditating regularly, reducing your caffeine intake, or engaging in other stress-reducing activities.
  • Practice good sleep habits: Sleep is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can help you to prevent headaches as well. Try to keep a regular sleeping schedule, and make sure that you are getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
  • Focus on your diet: While anxiety can cause headaches in people who do not experience them as a result of other triggers, it can also cause headaches to become more frequent or more severe in those who already suffer from them. You can reduce your anxiety levels by eating a healthy diet that is high in vitamins and low in sugar and caffeine.
  • Get regular exercise: Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can help to prevent headaches as well. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week can help to reduce anxiety and prevent headaches.
  • Relax: You can also try to relax whenever you feel yourself becoming stressed. Taking a few minutes to unwind before bed can also help to reduce headaches. You can also treat Anxiety-caused headaches by gently massaging your head and neck muscles to relieve the tension and aid in blood flow thus getting relief.

How to treat Anxiety-caused headaches

The treatment for headache that is caused by stress may be different than for other types of headaches. If the source of your headache is anxiety, you may want to explore relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety, and therefore, your headache.

If your anxiety is severe and you experience frequent severe headaches as a result, your doctor may recommend anti-anxiety medication. There are a number of different types of medication that can be used to treat anxiety including benzodiazepines and SSRIs.

However, it is important to note that there is no one treatment that is best for everyone. You should work with your doctor to determine which treatment methods are best for you and your specific situation. You should also be open to trying a few different methods to find out which is most effective for you.

You may also explore other anxiety treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapy techniques. These methods are quite effective in the long-term treatment of anxiety.

Finally, you can explore pain-relieving medications when required. These pain killers however do not give you long-term relief since they do not manage the primary or root cause of the headaches. However, they can give you temporary relief as you use other methods to manage anxiety.

Anxiety headaches daily: Can anxiety cause daily headaches?

Persons suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder among other anxiety disorders are likely to experience tension headaches, migraines, and new daily persistent headaches. This is because of the changes in the body’s chemicals and other effects in the body.

Thus,

  • Yes, anxiety can cause daily headaches, primarily in people who already experience headaches as a result of other triggers.
  • Anxiety can cause daily headaches by triggering hyperventilation, blood pressure changes, or stress on the body.
  • Anxiety can also lead to a change in diet and an increase in caffeine and sugar intake, which can cause daily headaches.
  • Anxiety can cause daily headaches by increasing the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • Anxiety can also cause muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and head, which can lead to daily headaches.
  • Anxiety can cause daily headaches in people who do not experience them as a result of other triggers.

Bottom line

Headaches caused by anxiety are not common, but they are not rare either. Most people who suffer from anxiety will likely never experience headaches as a result. However, it is important to remember that not all people who experience anxiety will experience a headache as a result.

Individuals with anxiety should be aware that stress can cause headaches, and take steps to manage their stress. If you are experiencing frequent headaches, it is important to see your doctor to determine if they are caused by anxiety.

If so, they will likely recommend methods of treatment specific to anxiety-induced headaches. If you are experiencing anxiety-induced headaches, you should try to avoid your triggers, practice relaxation, and practice self-care.

Citations:

https://www.healthline.com/health/headache/anxiety-headaches

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/73936

https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/anxiety-headaches-link#:~:text=Headaches%20are%20a%20common%20symptom,when%20they%20check%20for%20GAD.

Dr. David Barlow

David is a well-known researcher and author in the anxiety disorders area with extensive research on their etiology, nature, and treatment. He started the site to share his real-life experiences on the management of anxiety disorders with successful diagnosis and treatment being his motivation to write or review the content on this site.