Anxiety has many unusual and sometimes frightening symptoms. In addition to rapid heartbeat, sweating, and trembling, it's possible for anxiety to cause other physical sensations, one of which is head pressure.
Head pressure can occur in different ways. For some, it feels like a tension headache. For others, it's more like a migraine. For others, it feels like something is simply wrong inside your head. For others, their head feels heavy. Some people even feel as though they need to faint. In all of these cases, it's possible that your head pressure is caused by anxiety.
Head Pressure = Anxiety?
Head pressure is common during serious health problems. But it can also be related to anxiety. In some cases, head pressure can trigger anxiety, and in other cases, anxiety is the sole cause of head pressure.
If you're experiencing head pressure, it may be related to anxiety. Take my 7 minute anxiety test to learn more.
When your head pressure is very intense and seems to last, it may be in your best interests to call a doctor. Even though it may be anxiety related, there is no reason to risk your health and no harm in seeing someone that can examine you.
But in many cases, head pressure can be caused by anxiety. Both one time head pressure and constant head pressure may be anxiety related. If you haven't yet, take my 7 minute anxiety test, so you can see the way that anxiety may be affecting you and how it can be treated.
"My Head Feels Weird - Is It Dangerous?"
The key thing to remember is that if your head pressure is anxiety related, it's not dangerous. It's simply your body responding to severe stress. In addition, when you suffer from anxiety, it's not uncommon for your head pressure to get worse the more you worry about it.
When we talk about head pressure, we're talking about any type of pressure, ache, or pain that seems to affect the head, scalp, eyes, neck, shoulders, and upper back. Sometimes the pressure is easy to explain as tension or pain. Other times it may be harder to explain, like a bubble in the neck or back of the head.
How to Tell The Difference Between Anxiety Head Pressure and a Health Problem
Again, only a trained doctor can diagnose the cause of your head pressure, as head pressure can be caused by anything from anxiety to brain tumors. But generally, a good way to tell if the head pressure is caused by anxiety is if it:
- Tends to occur during periods of feeling stressed/anxious.
- Tends to occur with other anxiety symptoms.
- Tends to go in and out depending on your level of anxiety/stress.
It's possible to feel head pressure for days at a time, but usually the head pressure will come and go depending on how well you're dealing with your anxiety. Head pressure is especially common if you have anxiety attacks.
What's Causing the Head Pressure?
It's not entirely clear what causes head pressure. Anxiety causes a great deal of stress on your body. That stress can tense your muscles, throw off your hormones, and even create body heat. All of these are known to cause various sensations in the head.
Head pressure may be also be caused by responses to anxiety. Those that start to squint more may be putting tension on their eyes which can lead to head pressure. Sitting or lying down in an uncomfortable way may also contribute to the pressure, because it puts stress on already tensed muscles. Pressure on the top of the head may be related to how you're sleeping or sitting.
How to Relieve Your Head Pressure
Over the counter medications like Tylenol may reduce the feeling of head pressure, but since the head pressure is anxiety related it is unlikely to reduce all of your symptoms - especially if you have secondary symptoms, like rapid heartbeat, sweating, and lightheadedness.
Ideally, there are two things you need to do to reduce the feeling of head pressure:
- Reduce excess stress on your head or neck.
- Reduce your anxiety.
Even though the headache may be caused by stress, once your head feels pressure those sensations can be made worse by your lifestyle choices. To reduce extra stress, consider the following:
- Lights - Make sure the lights in your home are either bright or off completely. Head pressure can be exacerbated by low lighting, including looking at a computer screen or television in dim light.
- Walk Around - Walking around keeps your head and neck straight. If the muscles around your neck are stressed/tense, walking can make sure that you're not putting any excess pressure on them.
- Drink Water - Some of the symptoms of anxiety may be the result of dehydration while dealing with anxiety symptoms. Drinking water is a useful way to ensure your body is fully nourished, and the act of drinking water can be calming.
Some experts also recommend massaging your neck or temples. Adding this light pressure can be relaxing. If you have a partner that is willing to provide a gentle face massage, the experience of their touch tends to be soothing.
Conquering Your Anxiety
The other step is fighting your anxiety, and this is generally not something that can be completed overnight. Anxiety and panic attacks need to be prevented before they come, rather than during an attack.
When you're dealing with head pressure, medications should be your last resort. In some cases, anxiety medications can actually lead to head pressure and headaches, so controlling your anxiety may have no effect on your ability to reduce head pressure and may actually make it worse.
Instead, focus on the following:
- Lifestyle Changes - Find ways to decrease your daily anxiety and stress. Spending time with friends in low-energy situations, especially outdoors, can be highly advantageous.
- Exercise - Most people promote exercise because it improves your health, but the real reason to exercise is because it releases hormones and neurotransmitters that calm the mind and the muscles.
- Breathing Exercises - Head pressure is often made worse by poor breathing. Yoga, and breathing exercises like deep breathing, are both calming and re-train your body to breathe correctly.
You should then combine those with an anxiety treatment, preferably a safe option that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Curing Head Pressure From Anxiety
Head pressure is a very real physical experience, and it is possible that you're suffering from some illness. But in many cases, head pressure is nothing more than an anxiety problem, and the best way to cure that is to reduce your anxiety.
In the past I've given tips for thousands of people to reduce their anxiety, but what I've found is that before you can even begin, you need to take the 7 minute anxiety test I designed this free test to give you a visual snapshot of your anxiety, and you can use it to take the next steps in curing your anxiety forever.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 29, 2018.