Why Does Crying Give You a Headache?

When humans experience extreme emotions, such as happiness or sadness, crying can occur. Crying itself occurs when the brain signals the tear ducts to produce tears, which helps the body to reduce stress hormone levels. When people cry due to stress or sadness, a headache often can accompany this action.

The Process

Crying due to stress or sadness releases certain kinds of stress hormones from the body. These hormones can cause other effects, including tension or migraine headaches.

Tension headaches also result from changes in chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, endorphins and other chemicals. When these levels fluctuate, the body elicits several responses from crying to clenching the jaw and other muscles in the body.

Like tension headaches, the hormones and excess tension in the body due to crying may trigger migraine headaches, which have more severe symptoms (such as nausea, visual disturbances and dizziness) than tension headaches.

Crying-related Headaches

Headaches From Anger

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Headaches related to crying can cause the following symptoms: dull pain; pressure in the forehead and around the head; tenderness and tension in the scalp, neck and shoulders; and feelings of stomach upset.

Migraine headaches distinguish themselves from tension headaches in that they may be precipitated by a halo of light, known as a migraine "aura" or severe, often numbing sensations of pain.

It is important to note that headache symptoms due to crying only appear when a person is crying related to stress, depression or other negative emotions. Crying related to happiness does not cause the muscle tension and hormone stimulation brought on by negative emotions.

Headache Prevention

Crying can be a healthy way to relieve stress; however, headaches can be prevented by limiting tension in the body. When a crying episode comes on, taking deep breaths and performing neck and shoulder stretches may help to prevent a headache's onset.

If a person experiences frequent crying bouts accompanied by headaches, this may be a sign of depression or an anxiety disorder. Depression also can be affected by hormones in the brain as well, making it important for a person to seek medical help to relieve symptoms and the underlying causes of depression.