Everything You should Know about Anxiety Headaches


Headaches caused due to anxiety, stress or tension, are one of the most common types of problems that affect people of all age groups today. However, there are no explicit theories available to prove how anxiety is related to headaches. When you feel anxious, the serotonin levels in your brain get changed. This can impact your sleeping and eating patterns and also can also result in mood swings, thereby causing you headaches. An anxiety headache is always felt on both the sides and the back of your head. You will start feeling as if somebody is hitting you hard and all you would want to do is to get a tight band around your head to prevent the throbbing sensation.

Anxiety Headache Symptoms

An anxiety headache is also known as a tension headache. While a migraine can be easily identified by the pain that you experience on one side of the head, these tension headaches are usually recognized with the help of one or all of these symptoms:

  • Though pain is massive and detailed, it is disturbing

  • High pressure and a feeling of tightness in the forehead, back and sides of the head (both the sides are usually affected)

  • The muscles in the neck and shoulder start feeling softer than before

  • Scalp tenderness


Can Anxiety Cause Headaches?

While doctors have spelled out that there is a definite relation between stress (anxiety and tension) and headaches, they haven’t been able to prove their theory through facts and figures. Nevertheless, we have enough reason to believe that stress can lead to headaches. When you feel anxious or stressed about something, you gasp for air when thinking and you get into panic mode. The human brain releases a chemical known as serotonin that controls your emotional, mental and physical health. During times of stress, the production of this chemical is much higher than the usual levels, which results in a tight and throbbing pain all around your head and forehead. So, if you have been wondering, “can stress and anxiety cause headaches,” the answer is a strong, “yes.”

Let us now understand more about the types of an anxiety headache and what can be done to prevent them.

Episodic Anxiety Headaches

As the name indicates, this is a headache that lasts for a short time. The time limit can be anywhere between 30 minutes and a few days. You might experience this when you have urgent deadlines to meet at work or when you are stressed about something else in your life. These are infrequent headaches that may be experienced just for a few days a month. However, when you encounter these on a regular basis, they become chronic anxiety headaches.


Chronic Anxiety Headaches

If you have tension headaches all around the area of your head for more than 15 days continuously and if they last for at least three months, you are experiencing chronic anxiety headache issue, and you need to get medical attention immediately.


What Causes Anxiety Headaches?

As we saw earlier, stress, tension, and anxiety are the primary causes of these headaches, though it is tough to point fingers for one reason and identify it as the leading cause. Generally, people who worry over small things and stress out in every situation are more likely to experience anxiety headaches than people who maintain a relaxed and calm attitude. While tension headaches aren’t serious ailments, they do stop you from managing your life in its regular performance. When you have a throbbing pain in your head and neck muscles, it becomes impossible for you to show up to work or concentrate on important tasks, isn’t it? Therefore, it is essential to maintain mental peace in life. Anxiety causes headaches and headaches, in turn, cause you to stress more. This is a vicious circle, from which it is tough to get out of unless you have strong willpower.

How to Get Rid of Tension Headaches?

Yes, popping a painkiller might relieve you of your pain instantly. However, this is only a temporary quick-fix. If you are consuming more than two pain relieving pills a week, you are doing more harm than good to your body. All these pills are loaded with chemicals that can have long-lasting side effects in your body if you aren’t careful. If you want to get rid of a tension headache, you should always get to the root of the issue and look for permanent solutions. Some of them are:

  1. Leading a healthy life; ensure that you spend at least one hour on physical activities like running, walking, cycling, gym, etc. A healthy mind is a part of a healthy body

  2. Keep away from smoking and drinking; these directly affect your body and mind in a wrong way, thereby resulting in a lot of stress

  3. Enroll yourself in biofeedback training; is a technique you can use to learn to control your body's functions, such as head which gives you feedback on the pain and stress levels

  4. Attend cognitive behavioral therapy; these are talk-sessions where a therapist will advise you on how to deal with stressful situations in life. You get to engage with other people who have fought tension headache syndromes successfully which helps you understand the better management of stress and anxiety levels.

  5. Mental relaxation techniques; you have to practice techniques such as meditation and yoga that provide a calming effect on your mind and reduce the frequency of your tension headaches. You will see your tightened muscles relaxing slowly when you indulge in these mental exercises, thereby giving you permanent relief from stress headaches

  6. Get enough sleep; turn off your mobile phones when you go to bed

  7. Include a lot of fruits and vegetables in your meal and eat on time every day; never skip meals, especially breakfast

  8. Take enough breaks from your work whenever you can and go on a vacation with your family; spend as much time as possible with your kids and feel like a child again

What is the Connection between Stress and Headaches?

Usually, all generalized anxiety disorders (GADs) are first identified with headaches. While it is clear that there is a definite relation between the two, it isn’t clear which led to what. Does anxiety causes a headache or do headaches lead to stress? Medical experts are still trying to find an answer to this question.  Doctors believe that even migraines can be a form of tension headaches.

Migraines are usually associated with nausea and vomiting, but stress is the primary reason, they believe. Another new form of a headache that comes under the category of anxiety headaches is a syndrome known as a cluster headache. When you have severe pain around your head and behind your eyes, you are experiencing a cluster headache. The worse part of this type of a headache is that you may encounter them several times a day for many weeks before it entirely disappears for 6-12 months.

Get Medical Help

When you experience severe and frequent periods of tension headaches, migraines or cluster headaches, you have to get medical help. In some rare cases, frequent headaches could be because of a significant problem like a brain tumor. It is always better to be safe, isn’t it? A doctor will diagnose you thoroughly and will prescribe a specific medication for soothing your pain. As we already explained, these are temporary solutions. Therapy, counseling sessions, yoga, meditation, a healthy diet, and an active lifestyle are the permanent solutions for getting rid of anxiety headaches forever.


Never take Migraines for Granted

A headache and flu are the two most common illnesses that we tend to take for granted. We ignore them most of the times. However, in a shocking study conducted in 2009, it was found out that migraines were common in people suffering from anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder, GAD and other anxiety issues. Anxiety issues have an adverse impact on your headaches, and if you ignore it for a long time, they might also push you into depression. Always remember to correct the roots, that causing a headache, which are anxiety and stress. Pain in the head will vanish automatically. 


You have to change your lifestyle considerably if you are experiencing anxiety headaches. It is not enough to take painkillers frequently. You have to devote time to physical and mental exercises so that you can handle stressful situations with a calm mindset. When you keep your emotions in control, your tension headaches will start reducing slowly. Don’t hesitate to enroll yourself in counseling sessions and self-help group therapies as they go a long way in improving your overall mental health.

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
— Charles Spurgeon