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Psychosomatic headache: causes and treatment

Hum, throbbing, stinging: headaches can manifest themselves in different ways. Around 70% of the population suffer from the annoying, painful feeling at least at times. September 5th is National Headache Day. Reason enough for us to get to the bottom of the causes of the annoying suffering and to explain psychosomatic headaches.

Doctors distinguish around 200 types of headache. They separate the functional from the symptomatic headache. The latter refer to headaches with extracerebral (e.g. ENT or metabolic diseases, hypertension) and cerebral causes (e.g. tumors). Functional headaches are further subdivided into migraines, tension headaches, combination headaches, and cluster headaches.

The psyche as a trigger for headaches

The tension headache is particularly important for psychologists and therapists, as psychosomatic causes can be found in many cases. Also known as psychogenic, psychosomatic, or muscle contraction headache, this form can be episodic or chronic.

The pain lasts from 30 minutes to 7 days, is usually bilateral, and is characterized by a pressing, pulling (non-pulsating) pain of mild to moderate intensity. Physical activity does not worsen it and, unlike a migraine, there is also a lack of nausea, sensitivity to light and noise.

Depression from chronic headache

As the various names of tension headaches make clear, both physical and psychological factors play a role in its development. Psychosocial stress, depressive illness, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and sexual problems can trigger the pain; as well as an overload or tension in the muscles in the head, neck and shoulder area.

However, when it comes to the connection between chronic tension headaches and depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, the question of the causal connection (cause and effect) always arises. For example, a depressive mood can also be the result of chronic pain.

Treatment of psychosomatic headaches

When treating psychosomatic headaches, other forms of therapy should be tried before drug treatment. Peppermint oil, which is rubbed on the temples or forehead, has particularly good effects. Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), autogenic training, and other relaxation techniques also help relieve pain. The same applies to stress management strategies that help deal with stress in everyday life.

The topics of stress management, relaxation and mindfulness also play an important role in our online courses against depression, anxiety and stress. Here you will learn, among other things, breathing techniques that will help you relax. Such methods can be used both preventively and during an acute phase of pain.

Get rid of headaches through psychotherapy

Keeping a diary or log has also proven to be an important tool. In it you write down when and how often the complaints arise. In this way you can determine whether the headache is related to certain situations or events, which ultimately need to be avoided. In the Selfapy courses, the diary method is used directly from the first weekly module.

If depression, an anxiety disorder or chronic stress are actually the trigger for the tension headache, in many cases the start of therapy will result in significant pain relief after just a few weeks.

Selfapy has courses for people with depression, anxiety and panic disorder, eating disorder, or low self-esteem. To find out more, arrange a free information call now or start your course right away.