Heavy head & anxiety

Updated July 18, 2017

Heavy head is a type of tension headache. As many as 90 per cent of Americans have suffered from heavy head at some point in their lives. Many people describe it as a feeling of a tight band around the head. Mild or isolated cases of heavy head are relatively simple to manage with non-prescription drugs and healthy work habits. However, severe or recurring cases of heavy head are a cause for concern, particularly when they are associated with symptoms of anxiety.


Anxiety is the most common cause of recurring heavy head symptoms. But staring at a computer screen all day, the common cold, a sinus condition and heavy drinking can cause similar symptoms. Other common causes include panic attacks, depression and migraine. In rare cases a brain abnormality can cause a feeling of tightness and heaviness in the head. A number of factors can contribute to ongoing anxiety, including stress, pressure to perform, the loss of a job, change of schools, the death of a family member, trauma, abuse, a hard break-up, divorce and withdrawal from addictive substances.


Heavy head is characterised by a tightness, tension or heaviness in the head. Other symptoms, if any, can be used to diagnose the underlying condition. Symptoms of anxiety, a common cause of heavy head, can include sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, muscle tension, dizziness, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, chest pain, heart palpitations, trembling, being easily startled and ongoing worry.


When anxiety if left untreated, it can not only cause heavy head, but worsen and interfere with daily functioning, including school, work, social activities and relationships. In worst-case scenarios untreated anxiety can lead to erectile dysfunction in men, increased blood pressure and blood lipid (fat) levels, heart attacks, strokes and autoimmune diseases.


The best way to treat heavy head is to treat the underlying condition. Your primary physician can refer you to a neurologist who can test for brain abnormalities and migraine. If no physical illness is found, a psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in anxiety disorders can determine whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with drugs and therapy.


Seeking the assistance of a health professional at the early stages of anxiety or after major life-changing events can help prevent complications. It's the delay in treatment of the effects of traumatic experiences, stress or exhaustion that leads to the development of heavy head and anxiety disorder. Understanding the risk factors and causes of anxiety can help you avoid heavy head and anxiety in the future.

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About the Author

Dr. Berit Brogaard has written since 1999 for publications such as "Journal of Biological Chemistry," "Journal of Medicine and Philosophy" and "Biology and Philosophy." In her academic research, she specializes in brain disorders, brain intervention and emotional regulation. She has a Master of Science in neuroscience from University of Copenhagen and a Ph.D. in philosophy from State University of New York at Buffalo.