Headbanger: Anxiety and Headaches

One of the the symptoms that you are bound to develop if you have an anxiety disorder are headaches. The headaches themselves are as varied as all the other symptoms. In other words, you can have different types of headaches of varying severity and frequency. The most common is called a tension headache.

This kind of headache typically makes you feel like you have a metal band around your head. The pain is mild to moderate and it bugs you because it feels like something is touching your head from the outside. These can occur frequently and are stress related, and of course your high stress levels are related to your anxiety – a very uncool cycle. And what’s worse is that the pain is just the start, many times these types of headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, like fatigue and trouble concentrating. The muscles in your scalp can also join in and feel numb – the numbness maybe on one or both sides of your head.

There are other types of headaches, such as sinus and migraine headaches, but generally the tension headache is the primary culprit causing your head pains. Speaking of pains, you may sometimes experience sharp jabbing pains on different sides of your head, including the temples. The base of your skull and neck may also get sore and feel strained.

That’s the thing about anxiety, it does strange things to your body – and since anxiety effects the muscles and your head is covered with them, you will get these types of headaches. What can you do to stop or prevent a headache? The official line is to take medication. The medications range from antidepressants to muscle relaxants. As you all know I do not endorse this method of coping, but it is an option. You can also try various types of headache elimination programs that may be of help.

Instead of doping myself, I take two Advil (or any over the counter pain killer) and wait. It really is that simple. In the most extreme circumstances I will take my two pain pills and lie down for a little while. If you are at work then this is obviously not an option. If at all possible slow your pace and just focus on the fact that this headache will not last. You may have to put up with the headache for a few hours at most, but generally they subside on their own and you will be able to continue working as you let the headache pass.

In addition to trying to relieve the pain. Try to do what you can to prevent these headaches. Make sure your eating right and that you are getting at least eight hours of sleep. Although sleep is something you may not be getting a lot of right now, you have to try and sleep well in order to maintain good health. Your brain needs to rejuvenate at night because if it doesn’t you will become even more fatigued than you already are and become susceptible to tension headaches.

These headaches may also startle you and cause anxiety and fear. You might wonder – why is my head numb? Why do I feel like there is a huge rubber band around my head? You start jumping to conclusions and assume that it is something more serious and you begin the what if game. This leads to a torrent of hypothetical situations that scare the hell out of you. Don’t play that game and instead focus on what you know to be the cause – stress and anxiety. Do not introduce fear because you’ll wind up having an anxiety/panic attack. These headaches are not dangerous and will not harm you. When they come be patient and relax. Try the best you can to not tense up and escalate your head pain. You’ll have to ride it out and look forward to fewer headaches in the future as you take steps to reduce the stress and anxiety in your life.


  1. William says

    I’m glad I read this article. I’ve had constant headaches and head “pressure since anxiety started. Not to mention two migraines (never had migraines in my life before this). It really is quite bothersome. =(

    I started eating better and exercising but I’m still getting the head problems. IRS been a few weeks now. I’m still hoping for the best.

  2. mary says

    I always have worried about my anxiety symptoms and they scare the crap out of me but this made me feel alot better

  3. Gabriel says

    So how does this headache go away? I been getting my headaches like 2montys already and I tried almost everything and nothing takes it away.

  4. Leslie says

    This was a good read. I’ve had a very mild headache for the past 3 days and it has sparked my anxiety even more. I am currently taking Vistaril for my anxiety and figured this headache could be a side-effect. Either way, I am going to try to calm down and relax. Thanks for creating this site.

  5. Richard says

    this really helped thank you, i have been having these alot because i have a bad posture and dont sleep enough nor in the right way so i dont hurt myself, my doctor told me its these headaches im getting and nothing serious, which helped out, but i scares me because my neck on the left side is very tense and sensative but jumping to conclusions doesnt help anything, ive probably been hurting myself for a long time and it has finally caught up with as i am almost 20 and have always had a bad posture and sleepng position.

  6. Sammy says

    My biggest worry with my anxiety symptom is numbness in my left side that freak me out make me scare I got er doc said I’m healthy I’m not having any stroke but am still worried I’m only 26 if all my test come back normal why am I still going through numbness now they gave me Valium will that help please help that anxiety numbness pl….

  7. Viki says

    I’m 26 and work in a very demanding department in the hospital and one day I got light headed and a headache started. I have now had this headache coming up to 5 months and it’s killing me! It changes in severity so after 3 months off work I have returned and the headache is still stopping g me in my tracks. It w as my ENT consultant that suggested it was anxiety. I am on no tablets or pain killers as they don’t touch the headache and I’m struggling. I am going to try swimming and yoga next week. I just hope this isn’t life long! It makes my job soo hard!

  8. Sammy says

    Any body suffer from left side numbness please I’m scared. Not to have a stroke or paralyze

  9. cori w says

    sammy, i’ve had right side tingling/numbness from my anxiety. it is terrifying, but is is ANXIETY. does the valium make it go away? my ativan makes mine go away. and acceptance! have you read paul’s posts on acceptance? it DOES WORK! also look up claire weekes. you can do it!

  10. Sammy says

    Cori w When I take Valium it goes away and come back it d on and off specialy in the morning I my heart palpitation and numbness could go away.

  11. cori w says

    sammy – i’d throw yourself into accepting the feelings, as the valium makes them go away, and your doctor has cleared you, you KNOW this is anxiety.

    my symptoms are worst in morning upon waking and evenings when i’m tired. even knowing it is anxiety, they can still throw me off.

    your body is sensitized to these feelings now. i highly recommend paul’s ebooks, both of them. start with the anxious thinking one, and then move to his new one, the big idea. i just downloaded his new one and it has been very helpful in my anxiety journey.


  12. Theresa says

    I have been getting tension headaches the last three weeks.I just graduated nursing school and have been studying for the boards plus I am getting married so I have been trying to plan a wedding as well. I notice the headaches hurt my neck and I get the pains in the temple but this article made me feel much better.

  13. candi says

    Hi everyone,

    My headache started with a neck strain. This turned into a headache going on 9 days straight. A few breaks inbetween with pain killers…(a few hrs or so) but its still here. Its been diagnost as a tension headache…but i dont know. Im afraid thato its gone on for so long. Pjysical thrrapy and mri scheduled in middle December which makes me more concerned to have to wait so long. :-/

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