Yes, headaches are associated with anxiety. Primary headaches associated with anxiety include migraine headache and tension-type headache. Migraine headaches are typically pulsing, throbbing pain on one side of the head, and are associated with photophobia (not able to be exposed to light), sensitivity to sounds and smells, nausea, and vomiting. Some people with migraines will have an aura, which is a tell tale sign the migraine is occurring soon. Tension-type headaches typically manifest as pain that occurs on both sides of the head, and feels like a constant pressure, as if in a vice grip. The pain can come from the neck and the lower part of the head.
One study showed that people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and people with subthreshold anxiety who had at least two anxiety symptoms were at increased risk for both migraine headache and tension-type headache (Lucchetti et al., 2013). Another study found that anxiety symptoms, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) were associated with both migraine and tension-type headaches, and that panic disorder was associated with migraines (Beghi et al., 2010). These studies show that anxiety symptoms, GAD, phobias, and OCD are associated with both migraine and tension-type headaches, and that panic disorder in particular is associated with migraine headaches.
It’s no wonder anxiety can trigger a headache, especially when you are worrying and ruminating, which is replaying the situation over and over in your mind. Thinking maladaptive, negative thoughts are mentally exhausting, and may trigger and perpetuate primary headaches. And the physical symptoms of anxiety, like muscle tension and insomnia may further exacerbate a primary headache. Using relaxation techniques is one example of how to decrease anxiety, and hence minimize the triggers for a primary headache. For more information on anxiety, read my book, Anxiety Protocol.