How To Know If You Have Anxiety
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , generalized anxiety disorder, also known as GAD is characterized by excessive, persistent, unrealistic worry about everyday things including family, work, money, health, and more.
- Find it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months
- Have a frequent sense of impending doom, danger, or panic
- Frequently feel nervous, irritable, or on edge
- Have trouble sleeping
- Have difficulty concentrating
It makes sense that anxiety is a common side effect of living with an unpredictable disease like Migraine.
Why Does Stress Trigger Migraines
With my patients, I always work to bring it back to understanding the different stressors in their lives. We already know that stress goes beyond what we deal with on a daily basis, or that of sudden life changes. In fact, stress, as it relates to migraines, is often caused by environmental stressors, such as: toxins food sensitivities and mold.
Specifically, when our bodies are stressed and considered under attack, the brain increases production of a hormone which triggers the adrenal glands to increase cortisol levels, thereby altering the messages it sends to our main systems. When this happens, four main areas are affected:
- Digestion: Decreased digestive enzymes and motility, Leaky gut, imbalanced gut bacteria, and the gut-brain axis are all known to cause migraines when mixed signals are sent to the nervous system.
- Neurotransmitters: When neurotransmitters the messengers in our nervous system are imbalanced, it again affects our nervous system as serotonin , GABA, and dopamine levels are too high or too low, making migraines more likely .
- Hormones:Hypothyroidism, blood sugar and insulin imbalances, estrogen, and progesterone imbalances can all cause migraines.
- Immune System: Allergies or Histamine Intolerance, inflammation in the body, and autoimmunity are often the underlying reason for continuous migraines.
Techniques For Calming Down
Here are some of the techniques clinicians teach anxious children, adapted from CBT and mindfulness training:
Deep breathing: Drawing in air by expanding the belly, sometimes called belly breathing, helps kids relax by slowing breathing, and reducing the heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. It can also help relax tense stomach muscles.Mindfulness exercises: Techniques such as focusing on whats around them, what they see and hear, can help pull children away from the anxiety and ground them in the moment.Coping statements: Children are taught to talk back to their worries, Ms. Greenspan explains. They can say, Im feeling scared and I can handle it. Or something along the lines of, Im bigger than my anxiety.Coping ahead: Children are taught that when you have to do something that makes you nervous, it helps to anticipate that you might have some discomfort, and plan what you can do to counteract it, knowing that if you can push through it, it will get easier.Acceptance: This involves acknowledging the discomfort without fighting it. Instead of trying to push the feeling away and get rid of it, Dr. Domingues explains, we ask you to hold onto it and tolerate it and get through it.
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First Its Important To Understand Why Migraines Can Be Caused By Stress
Weirdly enough, a stress migraine is not considered an official diagnosis in a clinical setting. But that doesnt mean that stress-induced migraine attacks dont happen.
Ive never diagnosed stress migraine per se, but in people who have migraine, stress can be a trigger for worsening other migraine attacks or to bring about a migraine, Anne Csere, D.O., an assistant professor in the department of neurology, pain, and headache medicine at the University of South Florida, tells SELF.
Experts arent entirely sure what solidifies the connection between stress and migraines, but the general consensus is that it has to do with how our bodies respond to stress in the first place. We do know that the bodys physiological stress response involves the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, explains Dr. Zhang. Thats medical-speak for your fight or flight response, or the changes that occur in your body when youre faced with stressors.
Our response to stress can activate both of these systems, and this can lead to behavioral and physiological changes which can potentially trigger migraine attacks, Dr. Zhang? continues.
What Is A Stress Headache
Stress headaches aren’t an official classification of headaches in the International Classification of Headache Disorders but are more accurately known as “tension-type” or tension headaches, Ellen Drexler, MD, a board-certified neurologist based in New York, told Health.
“Tension-type headaches are defined by the absence of migraine features, so they tend to appear on both sides of the head, feeling like a pressure pain, without the usual migraine accompaniments of nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and worsened by head movement,” said Dr. Drexler. “They’d be the sort of run-of-the-mill pressure in the front of your head kind of headache of mild to moderate severity.”
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus database, tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are described as pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, often associated with muscle tightness. Tension headaches affect roughly 70% of people, and can last for 30 minutes to 72 hours, Susan Broner, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Health. In order to be properly diagnosed with tension headaches, you need to have a history of them. “To make the diagnosis, you’ve had to have had at least 10 of these ,” said Dr. Broner.
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Discovering Your Migraine Triggers
Migraines affect the lives of about 36 million people in the United States. These debilitating headaches often come with warning signs that can help you head them off at the pass. While your warning signs may fill you with dread, if youre able to identify exactly your triggers, you may be able to avoid migraines altogether.
Some common migraine triggers include:
- Weather changes
This helps us pinpoint the cause or causes of your episodes so we can treat you accordingly.
Southern Pain Clinic Can Help
Migraine headaches can be debilitating. Fortunately, you dont have to suffer alone. Help is available.
For information on how you can find relief from chronic headaches and tools to reach a diagnosis and helpful treatments, please contact Southern Pain Clinic today.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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What About Those Migraines That Set In After A Period Of Great Joy Though
Why would we be hit so hard after the excitement and a wonderful experience? Actually, for the same reasons we are after stress and great anxiety in the above examples. The cortisol levels rise during these periods as well and, again, may trigger a very unexpected attack, just when you least expect it: Research has shown a five-fold increase in attacks during this time period. This has led some experts to suggest that let down or relaxation is a more prominent cause of attacks than stress itself .
The let-down migraine actually has a number of behavioral changes during the stressful/excited period associated with it as well, all of which can be contributing factors to a degree:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in eating and drinking patterns
- Changes in routine
- Forgetting to take medications on time
- Reduction in regular stress managementmeditation, yoga, quiet walks
Treating Other Stressful Conditions That Trigger Migraine
Other health conditions can cause significant stress, which triggers migraine attacks in people susceptible to migraine. The most common examples include post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and physical or sexual abuse. This makes it important to find a treatment that helps reduce the symptoms and stress of these other conditions.4
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What Happens In The Brain
Repeated stressors can reorder the brains natural physiological systems, including the allostatic load.
In the case of the brain, the effects of repeated stress may lead to alteration in brain networks both functionally and structurally. As a result the brain responds abnormally to environmental conditions .
In other words, when our brains are routinely subjected to stressors, they develop maladaptive coping mechanisms that can lead to chronic migraines.
In order to keep that from happening, we must disrupt the cycle.
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.
- Do I have migraines?
- Am I feeling stressed or anxious?
- Do I have any other symptoms of physical illness, like a fever?
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 .
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Are There Different Kinds Of Migraine
Yes, there are many forms of migraine. The two forms seen most often are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura . With a migraine with aura, a person might have these sensory symptoms 10 to 30 minutes before an attack:
- Seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots
- Numbness or tingling in the face or hands
- Disturbed sense of smell, taste, or touch
- Feeling mentally “fuzzy”
Only one in five people who get migraine experience an aura. Women have this form of migraine less often than men.
Migraine without aura . With this form of migraine, a person does not have an aura but has all the other features of an attack.
Can Anxiety Cause Migraine Headaches
As with stress, some people find that anxiety can trigger their migraine symptoms.
People can also have anxiety because of migraine. They may worry about when the next episode will occur or feel as though they cannot control their condition.
Stress and anxiety differ in that stress occurs in response to a specific stressor, such as giving a presentation. Anxiety persists even when a person is not in a stressful situation.
However, both cause similar physical symptoms and changes in the body, which may explain why both can be migraine triggers.
2021 review of previous studies notes that although there is strong evidence that the two have a connection, it is unclear how they relate to one another.
The researchers suggest that the reason for this is that the processes that cause migraine are highly complex. Additionally, people have different responses to and coping mechanisms for stress, as well as different migraine triggers. This makes the relationship hard to study.
However, stress does cause a cascade of changes in the body that affect hormone levels, the nervous system, and the brain. It is possible that this process makes migraine onset more likely or increases the frequency or severity of symptoms.
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Taking Control Of Your Pain: Migraine Stress Management
If you have ever experienced a migraine, you know how debilitating this condition can be. Migraines are one of the leading causes of outpatient and ER visits, and 39 million Americans¹ suffer from them.
While scientists are yet to discover what causes migraines, research singles out several common triggers. Almost 70%² of people who face this condition report stress as one of them.
Learning how to reduce stress can help avoid migraines or reduce their intensity. Let’s take a closer look at migraine stress management.
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What Causes Ocular And Visual Migraines
Currently, there is limited research on what causes ocular and visual migraines.
Although studies have shown a change in blood flow into the eye during ocular migraines, the exact cause of this change remains unclear.
However, scientists sometimes associate the condition with genetics, meaning it may run in the family.
According to research, up to 70% of migraine patients have a personal or family history of migraine.2
Migraine triggers play a vital role in the onset and frequency of migraines.
Common migraine triggers include:3
- Alcoholic drinks such as red wine
- Excess heat or high altitude
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Treating The Cause: Diary
It may help to keep a diary if you have frequent headaches. Note when, where, and how bad each headache is, and how long each headache lasts. Also note anything that may have caused it. A pattern may emerge and you may find a trigger to avoid. For example, hunger, eye strain, bad posture, stress, anger, etc.
Some doctors suggest reviewing your diet. The list of foods which can be triggers in some people includes caffeinated drinks, chocolate, cheese and alcohol. Other doctors suggest focusing on a healthy balanced diet, with a good mixture of slow-release energy foods and a low intake of refined sugars.
How Can Stress Cause Headaches
Everyday stress can bring on headaches in a variety of ways. Thats because stress causes us to change our behavior without even realizing it.iv
You may still experience the occasional tension headache, but practicing the above techniques should help reduce their frequency and severity. Looking for a quick and effective way to get rid of a stress headache? Try an over-the-counter headache relief medication like Excedrin.You may still experience the occasional tension headache, but practicing the above techniques should help reduce their frequency and severity. Looking for a quick and effective way to get rid of a stress headache? Try an over-the-counter headache relief medication like Excedrin.
And while relaxation therapies and simply cutting down on the stress in your life can help to reduce the occurrence of tension headaches, chronic tension headaches may be indicative of a more serious issue. Consult a doctor to discuss and learn more about your headaches.
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What Are Rebound Migraines
Women who use acute pain-relief medicine more than two or three times a week or more than 10 days out of the month can set off a cycle called rebound. As each dose of medicine wears off, the pain comes back, leading the patient to take even more. This overuse causes your medicine to stop helping your pain and actually start causing headaches. Rebound headaches can occur with both over-the-counter and prescription pain-relief medicines. They can also occur whether you take them for headache or for another type of pain. Talk to your doctor if you’re caught in a rebound cycle.
Are Migraines Hereditary
Migraines tend to run in families. As many as four out of five people with migraines have a family history. If one parent has a history of migraines, their child has a 50% chance of having them. If both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%. Again, up to 80% of people with migraines have a first-degree relative with the disease.
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Can I Treat A Tension
Absolutely. While medication may be helpful, its not a substitute for coping with stressors that may cause your headaches.
Other tension-type headache treatment options include:
- Home remedies, like placing a hot or cold compress where it hurts, may help you feel better.
- Counseling can help you identify whats causing your headaches and learn useful coping methods.
- Relaxation training includes deep breathing exercises and listening to soothing music. These methods can relax your muscles and relieve pain.
- Biofeedback uses sensors connected to your body to monitor and then counteract your bodys physical functions. It teaches you ways to manage stress by identifying and then reducing muscle tension. Biofeedback may relieve or prevent headaches.
Consider Big Life Changes
Dr. Khoury has had patients who, after getting divorced or changing jobs, have seen their migraines drastically improve.
Some life changesbeing able to change jobs, for examplearent doable for everyone. And rather than leave your current relationship if its a source of stress, you might consider couples counseling.
However, if you do feel like you have the ability to explore something else, be it a new company or career, take your migraine as the signal that youfor the sake of your healthneed something new.
The bottom line: in order to address your stress migraines, you need to target the source of your stress.
Once youve identified the source, try some of these stress management tips to help you get started.
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When To Call The Doctor
- You are experiencing the worst headache of your life.
- You have speech, vision, or movement problems or loss of balance, especially if you have not had these symptoms with a headache before.
- A headache starts suddenly.
Schedule an appointment or call your provider if:
- Your headache pattern or pain changes.
- Treatments that once worked no longer help.
- You have side effects from your medicine.
- You are pregnant or could become pregnant. Some medicines should not be taken during pregnancy.
- You need to take pain medicines more than 3 days a week.
- Your headaches are more severe when lying down.
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