Physical Symptoms
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How to Stop Anxiety Headaches

Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC
How to Stop Anxiety Headaches

No one wants to suffer from anxiety, but most people can cope with some of the common symptoms (i.e. - a bit of sweating, a little muscle twitching, some stomach discomfort).

Yet some anxiety symptoms can have a much more significant impact on one ’s overall well-being and quality of life.  Headaches are often cited as one of these more significant symptoms. 

While fairly common, anxiety headaches can be incredibly painful.

Anxiety puts a considerable amount of stress on the body and can lead to several different types of sensations that may be described as headaches. For example, some experience more pressure than pain; some experience a dull pain, and some experience shooting pains.

Anxiety headaches, sometimes referred to as tension headaches, may occur in many different places, including:

Tension headaches are caused by stress. Researchers are not entirely clear why stress causes tension headaches, but there are some hypotheses. When a person is stressed, the muscles around the head and eyes get tighter. Some combination of hormones, body heat, and muscle tension is likely to contribute to these headaches.

Other Head-Pain Sensations

In addition to tension headaches, some people experience “unusual” head sensations. For example, some report sudden, light shooting pains in their head or around their eyes that comes quickly and leaves just as rapidly. It is still possible for these to be related to anxiety, although always consult with your doctor if you’re not sure.

How to Tell if Your Headache is Caused By Anxiety

Tension headaches are often diagnosed in relation to a person's overall health and lifestyle. Only a medical professional can officially diagnose a tension headache, but there are some questions many ask themselves to begin to identify the cause of a headache. 

Because self-diagnosis is not recommended, a visit to the doctor isn't a bad idea.  This is especially true, as many symptoms of anxiety mimic those of physical health problems (light-headedness, dizziness, even chest pains).

How to Relieve Anxiety Headaches

Although there is no proven way to instantly relieve tension headaches associated with anxiety, there are some standard headache treatments. Over the counter medications, like Tylenol, are effective for some people. 

Yet, as with any medication, it is important to determine whether or not it is safe for you to take. Drinking water may be a more natural approach, as it is a commonly cited remedy for tension headaches, as dehydration is known to exacerbate headache symptoms. 

Another approach to managing anxiety headaches is decreasing the amount of “screen-time” you consume (i.e. - time looking at a smartphone, tablet, computer screen). The light from screen time can contribute to tension headaches, especially if you are already prone to tension headaches. 

Also, because light can worsen the intensity of a headache, turning off, or dimming the lights could be helpful. Although less common, some other options for tension headache relief include:

None of these tricks are guaranteed, but they all can potentially relieve some of the discomfort associated with a tension headache. 

Preventing Tension Headaches From Anxiety

To prevent tension headaches, finding ways to reduce anxiety is essential.

Although each person’s cause of anxiety is different, there are some general anxiety reduction strategies that could result in preventing headaches altogether. :

While there are ways to manage anxiety and the associated headaches, meeting with a mental health professional still may be recommended vital to explore and identify the underlying cause(s) of anxiety. 

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