Crying often leads to headaches, especially if you have a mental health condition. Here are a few ways to cope and feel better.
Have you ever developed a headache after crying? If so, you’re not alone.
Getting a headache from crying is a common experience shared by many people, especially those with mental health conditions.
Crying can lead to headaches for many reasons, and there are strategies that may help you cope with the discomfort.
There’s not much scientific research to explain why you might get a headache from crying, and most studies that do exist are older.
For instance, research from 2003 notes that stress, anxiety, and menstrual periods may contribute to headaches caused by crying.
Though the research is limited, mental health and headache experts have a few theories on why crying makes your head hurt.
Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a neuropsychologist and founder of Comprehend the Mind in New York City, says that most people won’t experience head pain from shedding a few quick tears. But crying hard or long enough can bring on physical responses, like a runny nose, puffy eyes, or headache.
Depending on the length of time and the severity of crying, you could experience different types of headaches.
Crying and tension headaches
According to Hafeez, tension headaches are the most common type of headache from crying.
“When you cry, your whole body tenses up, especially your head and neck,” she says. “As such, the muscles will constrict after a while, causing the throbbing sensation in your head to begin.”
Crying and sinus headaches
You might notice that your sinuses are affected if you’ve been crying for a while.
Hafeez explains this is because your tear ducts drain into your sinus passages, causing them to become congested.
“This congestion will lead to pressure buildup and an eventual pressure headache in your forehead and cheeks,” she adds.
While it’s possible to have migraine-related sinus pain after crying, sinus infection headaches are not related, explains Thomas Berk, MD, a neurologist, headache specialist, and the Medical Director of Neura Health.
Crying and migraine headaches
Migraine is a headache condition centered around light and sound sensitivity. According to Berk, migraine is often associated with nausea and is caused by the production of inflammatory neurotransmitters in the brain.
A migraine headache may also stem from crying, especially for those who are already prone to them.
“Since these [headaches] typically occur in times of tremendous and prolonged stress, the strain your body feels while sobbing can induce a headache,” Hafeez says.
People who live with certain mental health conditions might cry more often than others. These folks may have more headaches as a result.
Hafeez lists a few mental health conditions that are usually associated with negative emotions or distress:
- bipolar disorder
- grief (acute, chronic, disenfranchised)
“Consequently, migraine and these conditions can often overlap, often making each other worse,” says Berk.
He adds that stress hormones and neurotransmitters released by stress may play a role as well.
“Naturally, stress can cause crying, and stress is a universal trigger for migraine headaches,” he says.
If you have a headache from crying, there are a few ways to find relief.
Hafeez and Berk recommend the following strategies to help you get rid of a headache from crying:
- addressing the root cause (are you experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression?)
- taking a hot or cold shower, depending on your preference
- using a heating pad or ice pack on your forehead, neck, or head
- trying medication, like acetaminophen or more specific migraine medication
- getting a massage that focuses on your head and neck
- drinking a caffeinated beverage or taking a caffeine supplement
- doing stretches or yoga poses for headaches
- taking care of yourself in general (sleeping, exercising, and hydrating)
“If you find yourself crying often, it might be worth looking into more long-term solutions, like therapy and support groups,” Hafeez adds.
Depending on how hard you may have cried, it’s possible to get a migraine attack, sinus headache, or tension headache.
If you’re looking to treat head pain from crying, you might consider treatment options like medication, massage therapy, and heating pads.
You might also try preventive methods to stop yourself from crying by addressing the root cause of your problems and making lifestyle changes as necessary.
If you keep experiencing headaches or migraine attacks after crying, you may wish to connect with a therapist who can help you work through your emotions and feel better.