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Anxiety, Tension Headaches and "Head Pressure" Sensation

Henry Vyner, MD, Psychiatrist
Anxiety, Tension Headaches and "Head Pressure" Sensation

There are many different kinds of headaches, and each type of headache tends to have a distinctive type of pain.

One type of headache is a tension headache, and tension headaches typically cause you to have a pain that feels like there is band of tightness or pressure around your head. It is usually a moderate pain when you compare it for example to the pain of a migraine headache.

Some people have chronic tension headaches, and they will do better if they seek out professional help. Chronic tension headaches are defined as tensions headaches that last for hours, and that occur more than fifteen times a month or three months in a row.

We don’t know for sure what causes tension headaches, although common sense tells us that they are probably caused by stress. We often find that we get tension headaches if we are in a stressful situation, or if we push ourselves too hard, or if we make ourselves rush.

Science has shown that people who have lots of tension headaches are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders. In other words, tension headaches are associated with anxiety, and anxiety may well play a role in causing tension headaches. 

Make Sure That Your Headaches Aren’t A Sign of A Serious Illness

Headaches can be a symptom of stress. Or they may be a sign of a serious physical problem. For example, a headache may be a symptom of a tumor in your brain, or of an infection of your brain or the coverings of your brain. Or of any number of serious health problems. 

This means that if you have chronic headaches, the first thing to do is to go see your doctor to make sure that your headaches aren’t being caused by a physical illness.  

You want to be sure to go see your doctor if you have a headache with any of the following qualities:

Your doctor will take a history, do a physical examination and if necessary do blood tests and imaging studies. 

If your doctor doesn’t find any physical cause for your tension headaches, then you can pretty much assume that they are probably caused by stress and/or anxiety. And then you can treat them accordingly.

You can confirm for yourself that your tension headaches are probably caused by stress and/or anxiety if they have the following qualities:

Getting Immediate Relief for Your Tension Headaches

You can often feel a tension headache starting to build up in your head. You can feel the first signs of tension building up in the muscles of your head. When you sense that first sign of tension, slow down and stop whatever it is you are doing for a moment. Pay attention to the tension and accept it. This in and of itself may short circuit and stop the tension.

Other things that might help stop the buildup of tension are:

If none of these measures work, you might want to take an over the counter pain killer (analgesic) that you know and that works well for you. Experiment with your medication, and figure out the smallest does that will stop your headache effectively.

But the most important thing to do is to take measure that will help you prevent the occurrence of tension headaches in the future.

The Prevention of Tension Headaches

Tension headaches can take a heavy toll on your life. In addition to causing pain, they can also cause you to miss days of work, or impair your ability to function at work. Or they may cause you to be irritable with friends and family. If any of these things are happening to you, then you want to be sure to take one or more of the many available steps you can take to prevent tension headaches. 

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