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Does PTSD Cause Headaches?

Illustration of a woman with a headache

You survived a deadly car crash, and you just can’t shake the memories. You’re losing sleep, avoid driving your car, and now you’re experiencing hours-long headaches. It’s possible PTSD causes these headaches, and treatment is available to help manage the symptoms to regain control of your life.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Most people who suffer trauma may have short-term problems coping, but over time and with self-care, they usually get better. But worsening symptoms lasting months or years which interfere with your quality of life could be signs of PTSD.

Know the Causes & Symptoms

PTSD isn’t merely caused by experiencing war or combat. It could be the result of:

  • Chaotic or life-threatening experiences, including the quantity and severity of trauma you’ve experienced during your life
  • Mental health risks that you may have inherited, including a documented family history of mental illness, anxiety, or depression
  • PTSD could be caused by the inherited features unique to your personality, commonly referred to as your temperament
  • The way your brain synchronizes chemical messengers and hormones your body circulates in reaction to stress

What are the Symptoms?

PTSD symptoms are typically grouped into four categories: avoidance, changes in physical and emotional reactions, intrusive memories, and negative changes in thinking and mood. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Reliving the traumatic episode as flashbacks
  • Avoiding events, people, or places that are reminders of the traumatic event
  • Memory trouble, including not recalling key details of the traumatic event
  • And many others

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medicine that originated as pre-surgical anesthesia in the early 1960s. The U.S. government, keen on its possible uses, agreed to allow the medicine to go through fields trials during fighting in Vietnam. It was so successful that it was fast-tracked for approval in humans and animals. At the same time, it was soon discovered that ketamine could help manage symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, mental illness, and chronic pain conditions.

Does PTSD Cause Headaches?

As is the case with other kinds of mental illness or chronic pain disorders, no one knows for sure why someone who has PTSD is at a greater risk of experiencing problems with sleep cycles, eating, relationships, or headaches. But we know that stress has been connected to headaches as they happen, and the symptoms of PTSD can undoubtedly add to extremely high levels of emotional strain and stress when they occur. Plus, research has shown that people with headaches or who suffer from migraines tend to experience more stressful events as they go about their daily lives.

According to the National Center for PTSD, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, post-traumatic stress disorder can drastically interfere with many facets of someone’s life, including work and personal relationships. Will this pile on more stress, boosting the chance of headaches? Probably.

In some instances, the kind of trauma that someone with PTSD has experienced, whether an adult or child and regardless of gender, may raise the likelihood of experiencing headaches. Consider this: If you were in a car accident or location where you suffered a traumatic brain injury or head injury, you could be at greater risk of experiencing problems with headaches. In fact, U.S. veterans who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom are showing high diagnoses of traumatic brain injuries, which could explain the number of headaches reported by these same veterans who also suffer from PTSD. Thankfully, symptoms are treatable.

Diagnosis & Treatment

When seeing your healthcare provider for headaches or PTSD, your doctor may:

  • Perform a physical examination to validate any medical troubles that may be causing your symptoms, like fever, infection, or a neurological problem in the case of headaches
  • Do a mental assessment that includes a talk about your symptoms and signs and whatever led up to them
  • Compare your PTSD symptoms to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) from the American Psychiatric Association

Once you’ve received a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a multi-pronged treatment approach, including psychotherapy, self-help, or medicine like ketamine.

Final Thoughts

PTSD is a widespread and serious medical condition affecting nearly six percent of the U.S. population. Its symptoms and side effects like headaches can have serious consequences if left untreated and result in more severe physical and mental health conditions. Contact us today to learn more about possible treatment options.

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