Sensations

Anxiety, Tension Headaches and "Head Pressure" Sensation

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

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 headache comes on abruptly and is severe
  • Your headache is accompanied by fever, a stiff neck, confusion, double vision or difficulty in speaking.
  • You have a headache after a head injury.

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:

  • Your headaches tend to occur during periods of feeling stressed/anxious.
  • Your headaches tend to occur along with other symptoms of stress or anxiety.
  • Your headaches tend to come and go depending on your level of anxiety/stress.

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:

  • Take a walk
  • Take a moment and slow down whatever it is you are doing.
  • Take some deep breaths to release your tension.
  • Massage the muscles in your head and neck to release the tension. This can be very effective.

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.

  • Exercise - this will relieve stress.
  • Learn to Detect When You Are Pushing Yourself - much of the stress and tension that we experience in life comes from pushing ourselves too hard. Learn do detect when you are pushing yourself, and then learn to gently stop yourself pushing yourself. And don’t judge yourself when you find yourself pushing yourself. Just let it go.
  • Biofeedback Training - biofeedback training will teach you how to stop making the muscular responses to stress that cause your headaches.
  • Psychotherapy - go into therapy to find out why you are feeling stressed and/or anxious. Once you find out why you are feeling stressed, you can take measures to reduce your stress.
  • Meditation - meditation will help you see why you are feeling stressed and learn to let it all go.
  • Mindfulness Training - mindfulness training will do the same.
  • Create a Life That is an Expression of Your True Self and Your Deepest Values - this is the best way to stop stress and anxiety. Be yourself. Believe in and love what you do.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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