Anxiety and headache: a very common combination
Headache and anxiety are forms of discomfort that are often combined.
Physical discomfort is often expressed without the phenomenon of psychological discomfort, and vice versa.
A clear example of this is the way in which anxiety is related to headaches; this combination gives rise to many of the symptoms that lead people to seek medical or psychological help frequently.
Now then... why is it that people suffering from anxiety tend to experience headaches as well? Let's see it.
The unsuspected consequences of the problems of anxiety
Let us begin putting the focus on the anxiety, from the most basic question in this topic: in what consists to be anxious? Anxiety is a set of psychological and physiological mechanisms triggered by a situation that we perceive as dangerous, or associated with a risk (e.g., the risk of losing an opportunity). (e.g., the risk of losing an opportunity).
This phenomenon awakens in us a "state of alertness", a high degree of activation and sensitivity to stimuli; this is because when we feel anxiety we are predisposed to act quickly at the first sign that delaying a few seconds may be costly. Thus, the ability to experience anxiety is a resource carved by millions of years of evolution and that in most cases has helped us to survive and adapt to the environment.
However, this set of mechanisms that give rise to anxiety is a double-edged sword and "overflows" the type of situations in which it is useful.. In fact, anxiety disorders are among the most common psychopathologies, affecting approximately 12% of the population. And since anxiety affects many psychological and physiological processes, the chain reaction of these alterations can give rise to very varied forms of discomfort. Among them, headache.
Anxiety and headaches: between physical and emotional discomfort
As we have seen, anxiety makes us "on guard". However, this is not a simple mechanism with very clearly defined effects: the chain reactions caused by anxiety affect many aspects of the organism through the secretion and release of hormones, the activation of certain neural networks, and the activation of certain neuronal networks.The chain reactions caused by anxiety affect many aspects of the organism through the secretion of hormones, the activation of certain neural networks, the predisposition to certain types of thoughts, etc.
Thus, what at first appeared to be a purely psychological phenomenon is also reflected in symptoms associated with physical discomfort, as is the case with anxiety-induced headache.
In addition, the headache itself can also predispose people to feel more anxious, to be in a worse mood (which makes it easier to focus on unpleasant thoughts and memories) and to be in a worse condition to face challenges. worse able to cope with the challenges of everyday life (and this leads to the feeling (and this produces the feeling that the situation is "beyond us"). In this way, the circle of causes and effects closes, giving rise to a fish that bites its own tail and wears down our well-being in two ways.
In this case we are going to focus on the first of these situations, the headache triggered or caused by anxiety, to see in what ways it can occur.
1. Tension headache
One of the main triggers of tension headache is the fact of having had the fact of having had the muscles of the neck and certain parts of the head too tense for a significant period of time; for example, it occurs when we have been lying or sitting with the neck at an angle that is uncomfortable. for a significant period of time; for example, it occurs when we have been lying or sitting with the neck at an uncomfortable angle. The pain is usually focused mainly on the sides of the head.
In this sense, we must not forget that when we suffer an excess of anxiety, a good part of our musculature remains tense (as a preparation to the possibility of having (in preparation for the possibility of having to move quickly), which can cause pain.
2. Vascular headache
The vascular headache arises as a consequence of an abnormal pattern of abnormal dilation or contraction of the Blood vessels in the head area.. It can be favored by anxiety, since the hormonal changes it produces cause the circulatory system to adapt to an "emergency" situation.
3. Lack of sleep
Finally, lack of sleep is another way in which anxiety can generate headaches. In states of anxiety or high levels of stress, it is difficult to fall asleep or to have a restful sleep.This situation pushes the nervous system's capacities to the limit, which is associated with a feeling of general malaise, dizziness, headache, etc.
Are you interested in psychotherapeutic support?
If you experience anxiety or any other form of discomfort related to the way you think, feel or behave in your daily life, please contact us.
At Azor & Associates we have been offering psychological assistance services for more than 20 years through individualized psychotherapy, couple therapy and psychological expertise. The sessions can be carried out in person at our center in Tres Cantos, or online.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)