Does anyone else get migraines or headaches with their anxiety?

I wake up most mornings feeling anxious and sometimes with a nasty headache which isn't relieved by ordinary OTC meds, so I no longer take them (especially as I'm concerned about rebound headaches possibility). The only thing that helps is Imigram, on prescription, but I am concerned that I get these when I am anxious about silly things.

For instance I am starting a new weekly 7-week course this evening - ironically one that could help me emotionally as it's about Mindfulness and Stress. But I have to go by bus into my local town in the cold and dark and I am dreading that, even though really it's nothing to worry about at all.

I also have a small group of friends coming tomorrow to have an art day, which I do every few weeks and I enjoy the days we have, but get in a state beforehand making sure the house is clean and tidy and that also can bring on migraines. I get them whether or not I am anxious or looking forward to an event and worrying that I MIGHT get a migraine can be enough to bring one on the following morning! I seem to be in a vicious circle/self fulfilling prophecy thing and am concerned that they are becoming more frequent. Does anyone else experience this and how do you cope?

12 Replies

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  • I get ocular (eye) migraines for absolutely no apparent reason. That's the twinkling in the eye and can't see properly. I've had them for 40 years.

    Could be stress - it is certainly one of the classic causes of migraine.

    Sometimes I get them when I relax as if all the tension in my body can finally be released.

  • Hi hedgecrone. Haven't seen you on the blogs of late, you were missed! Sorry to hear about your current problem. Migraine is a complaint that is due to stress. the person suffering does not always know why because, usually, they have done nothing to bring it on. I use to have bad headaches while in GAD but not, thank goodness, migraines. You have really answered your own question. "Self fulfilling prophesy". You expect them and, like any well behaved visitor who is invited, they come because you have already laid the groundwork for them. You are ANTICIPATING which is one of the most disturbing of all the symptoms of anxiety. (See ellabella's recent blog). Anticipating brings on stress and that starts, as you put it, "the vicious circle". When they come (the thoughts and the migraine), go with them . Do not run away in FEAR. So, the house is not as spic and span as you would like it to be when you have visitors. So! They can always go home if they don't like it! But do they come to look at and criticise your home? Of course not. They come because you welcome them and you have a common interest in art. Do you see. It is the worry about what MIGHT happen that brings on the migraine. And they are not 'silly things' you get anxious about. To you they are important events in your life and rightly so. You are very lucky to have a course to go to about Mindfulness and Stress. Mindfulness is an excellent remedy for what ails us. Go, have a good time. When they said to Winston Churchill during the last war how he managed to sleep with all the responsibilities he had he said "I just say, sod the lot of them, turn over and go to sleep". To me that is better than all the pills. Good luck to night. jonathan.

  • Hi Jonathan and Bramwell and thank you both for replying. I don't get visual disturbances and the only way I 'know' they are migraines is that the usual paracetamol/codeine or ibuprofen remedies don't work at all - only the Imigram which is sumatryptan (spelling?). You are so correct in what you said, Jonathan - but I truly don't know how to break the vicious circle each time. I worry about stupid things that nobody else would worry about. For instance I worry that my social life isn't as good as other people's/have fewer friends or whatever, and then when I do have arrangements I feel so anxious in case something happens to sabotage the arrangement that I get a migraine or bad headache, or feel otherwise unwell (sometimes it's abdominal pain/cramps and sudden need for the loo!)

    It happens when I go away on holiday too. I can rarely relax and it seems to be getting worse the older I get - I thought the opposite would happen.

    I know in my head that what you say about the house not mattering is so true, but I still can't really 'feel' it and it bothers me. I think that deep down I feel people will judge me harshly, whether they say something or not - or maybe that I want them to think I am efficient, hard working and not the horrible useless failure I believe myself to be. It's self-imposed stress. I can see myself doing it, but I feel powerless to do anything about it. Maybe the Mindfulness course will help. I'd love to say 'sod you' to my brain sometimes - it tells me nasty things about myself all the time, and I buy into it constantly!

  • Hi hedgecrone. You are no doubt suffering from what I call 'selfcriticalitis!! (Not in the medical dictionary!) You are expecting too much of yourself. YOU ARE NOT A "HORRIBLE USELESS FAILURE". Get that thought and put it in the recycle bin and then click 'empty'. It is not what others think about you it is what you think about yourself that matters, and you are very, very harsh on yourself are you not? It is not your brain that is the problem but your mind. Your mind is constantly telling your brain there is a problem and the brain responds in the only way it can. By giving you a headache it gives you an excuse to 'opt out'. As a child if I did not want to go to school I used to say I had stomach ache. My mother always fell for this and to this day if I do not want to do something, go somewhere, I get stomach ache. See what I mean? I would be most interested in how you get on with the mindfulness. Kind regrds. jonathan.

  • By the way - I have been away on holiday and altered my settings so I didn't get too many emails and haven't changed it back because I found the number of emails overwhelming at times. I will check in when I can. x

  • Hi

    To start with - I WISH I lived near you - I'd LOVE an art day!

    As for headaches - yes, I've an almost constant background headache, plus sometimes it builds to a migraine. I have a bad problem with my circulation due to anxiety and I'm sure that my headaches and migraines are connected to this, because of the lack of blood in the capilliaries around the head.

    You should tell your GP though. Lots of meds give headaches, but you may have something physically wrong that is causing them, not just anxiety.

    Have a look at 'cluster headaches' online to see if this might be you.

    Take care

    :)

  • This might sound daft, but I've woke up a few mornings with the blindness in 1 eye (tunnel vision) closely followed by a headache. I've been told that Wifi can cause migraines. My phone is constantly connected to wifi and I place it on my side table right next to my head. I thought I had migraines due to my anxiety, but think maybe it could be this? Obviously stress and anxiety brings on headaches aswell but this was just a thought xx

  • Hi,

    I would be highly sceptical about the Wifi link, it would certainly be interesting though to see some peer reviewed evidence of a potential link as many people will have a smartphone next to the bed, perhaps an iPad to read on, maybe a radio alarm clock. So it's an interesting thought!

  • I don't know about WIFIs and not sure even what they are! I have woken up yet again with a vague headache which has worsened as I lay there worrying about it. I don't want to take anything for it today because I'm worried about rebound headaches and overdosing.

    I will just have to sit this one out somehow. Jonathan, thank you for your compassionate input. I know i am harsh with myself but actually I deserve it - I don't deserve compassion, truly. I feel lazy, inadequate, stupid and a failure. I try not to let headaches and minor complaints stop me doing things - that's why I take medication, so i don't have to cancel things, but I was planning to attend my usual Pilates exercise group this lunchtime and I honestly don't think I will be up to it:(

    I worry about everything possible and that makes the tension in my head worse. I will see my GP at some stage but I think she has me down as a neurotic idiot as it is, so I will have to leave it a bit. I will mention the headaches to my psychiatrist when I go and see him (sadly for the last appointment due to staff shortages, priorities and the fact that I am not considered ill enough).

    For the moment I will have to give in and lie down for a while. Thank you for your replies:) x

  • Hi hedgecrone. NO, NO, NO you are NOT stupid, inadequate, and a failure. This is all in your MIND. Go to your Pilates group, but go WILLINGLY. Do not anticipate; just go along with it. ACCEPT how you feel. (My goodness, I wish it were as easy as it sounds). By saying you feel you will not be up to it you have already laid the ground for "IT" to flourish.Negative feelings are really good compost for "IT". My dear, (I can say this because I am probably the oldest one on this site!!!) no one is doing this to you. You are doing it to yourself. I know, I know, what a trite remark that is but it is true. Again, what your GP has you down as is irrelevant. It is what you have yourself down as that is important. Stop thrashing yourself.

    I have seen a lot of your blogs over the past months and you are far from stupid and inadequate. I hope you go to Pilates. Let us know how you get on. Keep blogging. (Most important).Bless you. jonathan.

  • Hello, Jonathan, just thought I'd update as things took a turn for the worse yesterday. I had wanted to go to my class and intended to, but my headache worsened dramatically into a fullblown migraine with pain so bad I couldn't even sleep because of it. I had nausea as well, so definitely a migraine. I hadn't taken any medication because I was concerned about overdosing, and was hoping it would just go, but I couldn't eat, sleep or do anything except lie in bed. I felt shivery, and then too hot, sometimes needing a hot water bottle and then a cold flannel. Its was horrible and I don't want another day like that again in a hurry. Finally I asked Andrew, my husband, to phone the GP to ask if it was OK to take another Imigram - we didn't get a response for 2 hours as she was in surgery/on duty, but she said yes, it doesn't make sense to suffer, so I took one. It took a while to take effect but then at least I was able to sleep and feel well enough to sit up and eat (it was night time by then).

    This morning I have a slight residual headache and feel very weak and washed-out, and am worried it's going to return or hasn't gone properly and what I will do if it does. The GP had a discussion with Andrew about putting me on beta-blockers, a low dose for a while, because that would help prevent migraines and headaches and help with my anxiety. We will see!

    Jonathan, you are right that I don't do myself any favours, and it's a very ingrained habit over decades. I have never felt 'ok' about myself that I can recall, though there have of course been times in my life when I coped far better, when we had our children, and I was focused on them and their needs (one was born with a rare syndrome which led to major health problems, surgery and later on, mental health problems, self harming and suicide attempts). We had a pretty happy time in between the stress and anxiety and I taught part time for a while, co-authored two books for teachers and later on when I decided to leave teaching, I did a CIty and Guilds course in textiles and joined a friend to set up a small local business dyeing and selling threads and fabrics to textile artists.

    We went out separate ways in 2008 when she suddenly decided to split, which devastated me but was a good thing in the long run because the friendship had become pretty toxic and damaged my not-great self esteem still further. I had lost a lot of confidence and there were many issues I won't go into.

    Despite carrying on with the biz in a low-key way since, I am struggling emotionally and continually compare myself to other people, envying their apparent happiness and contentment.

    Anyway all that is probably irrelevant stuff - but I have felt increasingly anxious and low since then. I have joined U3a and had various stints at some of the groups, some of which have proved too much for me - I did Russian for 2 years and philosophy for a while. Now I go to a meditation class once a month, Pilates weekly, I visit a friend in a nursing home when I can (not as often as I should though but I can't cope with more), I have a textile art group which meets at my house every month and I like to go out with my husband to NT houses and gardens or nature reserves when we can. Not a life you'd say was fraught with anxiety, is it? That makes me feel even worse for feeling as unwell as I do. Why now? Why do I find it so hard to cope with life emotionally now, when I coped better when things were harder?

    There is no answer to that!

    Sorry for the overlong post.

  • Oh dear. I seem to have bored everyone to sleep....:(

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