Psychological Trauma Or PTSD And Chronic Headaches And Migraines

Understanding the relationship between Trauma and Physiological Effects such as Chronic Headaches or Migraines on Scam Victims

Solmatic & Physical Effects on Scam Victims

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

The intricate connection between PTSD or psychological trauma and chronic headaches or migraines highlights the profound impact these conditions have on individuals’ lives, particularly those who have experienced significant psychological trauma.

While stress headaches, also known as tension headaches, are prevalent worldwide, affecting up to 80% of adults and children at some point in their lives, trauma-related headaches present distinct challenges. Trauma-induced headaches, often observed in individuals with PTSD, may manifest as migraines, tension headaches, or other types of headaches, exacerbating cognitive impairment or brain fog.

Psychological distress and emotional dysregulation commonly associated with trauma-related headaches can further impair cognitive function, making it challenging to focus, think clearly, or perform cognitive tasks effectively.

Addressing both the physiological and psychological aspects of trauma-related headaches is crucial for comprehensive management, emphasizing the need for tailored treatment plans that integrate medical and psychological interventions to improve outcomes and enhance the quality of life for individuals affected by PTSD and chronic headaches or migraines.

Somatic and Physical Effects of Scams - Psychological Trauma Or PTSD And Chronic Headaches And Migraines - 2024

SCARS Recommended Books

SCARS GREEN BOOK - The SCARS Self-Help Self-Paced Scam Victim Recovery Program Guide
SCARS COBALT BOOK - A Scam Victim's Guide to Mindfulness - NEW 2024

A Note About Labeling!

We often use the term ‘scam victim’ in our articles, but this is a convenience to help those searching for information in search engines like Google. It is just a convenience and has no deeper meaning. If you have come through such an experience, YOU are a Survivor! It was not your fault. You are not alone! Axios!

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic headaches or migraines are two distinct yet interconnected conditions that significantly impact individuals’ lives who have suffered psychological trauma.

While PTSD is characterized by debilitating psychological symptoms resulting from exposure to traumatic events, chronic headaches or migraines often manifest as persistent and intense head pain. Note that PTSD means ‘Post Traumatic STRESS Disorder’ – and stress is one of the most common reasons for headaches in humans!

SCARS Note: this article is intended as an introduction to the topic to help scam victims become aware of the potential, but as with all such information it is strongly recommended that individuals discuss this topic with their doctors to be properly evaluated and explore any treatment options.

Stress Headaches

Stress headaches, also known as tension headaches, are among the most common types of headaches experienced by individuals worldwide. They typically present as a dull, aching pain that affects both sides of the head and may be accompanied by muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Stress headaches are often triggered or exacerbated by factors such as emotional stress, anxiety, poor posture, and lack of sleep. While they can occur occasionally, some individuals experience them frequently, leading to chronic tension headaches.

On the other hand, trauma-induced headaches are specifically linked to exposure to psychological trauma, such as reacting to the experience or witnessing a profoundly distressing event. These headaches can manifest as migraines, tension headaches, or other types of headaches and may vary in intensity and duration. Trauma-induced headaches are often part of a broader constellation of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other trauma-related disorders. They may be triggered by reminders of the traumatic event, traumatic memories or occur spontaneously as a result of heightened emotional arousal.

While stress headaches and trauma-induced headaches share some similarities, such as their association with emotional distress, there are also key differences between them:

  • Triggering Events: Stress headaches are typically triggered by everyday stressors, such as work deadlines, relationship problems, or financial worries. In contrast, trauma-induced headaches arise in response to traumatic experiences, such as combat exposure, physical assault, or natural disasters.
  • Underlying Mechanisms: The underlying mechanisms contributing to stress headaches and trauma-induced headaches may differ. Stress headaches are believed to result from muscle tension and contraction in the head, neck, and scalp, often exacerbated by stress or anxiety. Trauma-induced headaches, on the other hand, may involve complex interactions between neurobiological changes associated with trauma exposure, including alterations in neurotransmitter levels, hormonal changes, and dysregulation of the stress response system.
  • Psychological Factors: While both types of headaches are influenced by psychological factors, trauma-induced headaches may be more closely tied to trauma-related symptoms, such as intrusive memories, hyperarousal, and avoidance behaviors. Individuals with PTSD may experience headaches as part of a broader array of trauma-related symptoms, whereas stress headaches may be more directly linked to situational stressors.
  • Treatment Approaches: Treatment approaches for stress headaches and trauma-induced headaches may overlap but can also differ based on the underlying causes and contributing factors. Stress headaches may respond well to stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, over-the-counter pain medications, and lifestyle modifications. Trauma-induced headaches may require a more comprehensive approach that addresses both the psychological and physical aspects of trauma, including trauma-focused psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and integrative therapies.

The prevalence of stress headaches, also known as tension headaches, varies depending on the population studied and the criteria used for diagnosis. Overall, stress headaches are considered one of the most common types of headaches experienced by humans worldwide. According to estimates, as much as 80% of adults and children experience tension-type headaches at some point in their lives. Among those who experience tension headaches, some may have occasional episodes, while others may suffer from chronic tension headaches, occurring more frequently and persisting for longer durations.

Stress headaches and trauma-induced headaches share commonalities in their association with emotional distress, but they also exhibit distinct characteristics based on their triggering events, underlying mechanisms, psychological factors, and treatment approaches. Understanding these differences is essential for accurately diagnosing and effectively managing headaches in individuals affected by stress or trauma.

Recent research has shed light on the intricate relationship between trauma and somatic symptoms, such as headaches, highlighting the bidirectional influence they exert on each other. Understanding this complexity is important for developing effective treatment strategies and improving the quality of life for those affected.

The Impact of Psychological Trauma on Physical Health

Psychological trauma can have profound effects on physical health. Individuals with psychological trauma or PTSD often experience a range of physical symptoms, including chronic pain conditions like headaches or migraines. Studies have shown that the prevalence of chronic headaches or migraines is significantly higher among individuals with PTSD compared to the general population. This suggests a strong association between psychological trauma and the development or exacerbation of headaches.

Trauma-related headaches have been very poorly studied to date in terms of prevalence. However, it is recognized that traumatic experiences can contribute to various types of headaches, including migraines, tension headaches, and other headache disorders. Trauma-related headaches are often observed in individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other trauma-related disorders, which themselves have varying prevalence rates depending on the population studied and the specific trauma exposure.

While precise estimates of the prevalence of trauma-related headaches are not readily available, SCARS own research suggests that a significant proportion of individuals with significant psychological trauma or PTSD experience headaches as part of their symptom profile. According to some studies, headaches are reported by approximately 50% to 80% of individuals with PTSD, although the specific type and severity of headaches may vary among individuals. It’s important to note that trauma-related headaches may not always be recognized as such, especially if they co-occur with other trauma-related symptoms or are attributed to other causes.

Biological Mechanisms

Several biological mechanisms underlie the link between PTSD or psychological trauma and chronic headaches or migraines.

Dysregulation of the stress response system, particularly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, may play a significant role. Chronic stress associated with PTSD can lead to persistent activation of the HPA axis, resulting in alterations in cortisol levels and increased susceptibility to headaches. Additionally, changes in neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin and norepinephrine, may contribute to headache development or severity in individuals with PTSD.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors also play a crucial role in the relationship between PTSD or psychological trauma and chronic headaches or migraines. Heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional distress commonly experienced by individuals with PTSD can trigger or exacerbate headache symptoms. Moreover, maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as avoidance behaviors or hypervigilance, may further perpetuate the cycle of stress and headache frequency. Sleep disturbances, which are prevalent in PTSD, can also contribute to the onset or worsening of headaches.

Trauma-related headaches can present alongside cognitive impairment or brain fog or possibly trigger it, particularly in individuals who have experienced significant psychological trauma. The relationship between trauma and cognitive function is complex and involves various neurobiological, psychological, and behavioral factors.

When an individual experiences psychological trauma, it can activate the body’s stress response systems, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Prolonged or severe stress can have detrimental effects on brain structure and function, particularly in areas involved in cognition and emotional regulation. Additionally, trauma-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can further contribute to prolonged cognitive difficulties, including problems with attention, concentration, memory, and executive function.

Headaches associated with trauma, whether they manifest as tension headaches, migraines, or other types of headaches, can worsen cognitive impairment or brain fog in several ways. First, the pain and discomfort caused by headaches can directly interfere with cognitive function, making it challenging to focus, think clearly, or perform cognitive tasks effectively. Individuals may experience difficulty concentrating, processing information, or making decisions when they are in pain or experiencing headache symptoms.

Also, the psychological distress and emotional dysregulation often associated with trauma-related headaches can contribute to cognitive impairment. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, which are common in individuals with PTSD or other trauma-related disorders, can negatively impact cognitive function and exacerbate symptoms of brain fog. Moreover, the persistent nature of trauma-related headaches, especially if they occur frequently or become chronic, can lead to ongoing cognitive difficulties and impairment over time.

It’s important to recognize that the relationship between trauma, headaches, and cognitive function is bidirectional and complex. While trauma-related headaches can contribute to cognitive impairment or brain fog, cognitive difficulties themselves can also make headache symptoms worse and impact overall functioning and quality of life. Therefore, addressing both the physiological and psychological aspects of trauma-related headaches is essential for comprehensive management and improving cognitive outcomes for individuals affected by these conditions.

Treatment Considerations

Addressing the complex relationship between PTSD or psychological trauma and chronic headaches or migraines requires a multidisciplinary approach that medical and psychological professionals can provide.

Trauma-focused psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), can help individuals process traumatic experiences and develop coping strategies for managing PTSD symptoms. Additionally, pharmacological interventions targeting both PTSD and headache symptoms, such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants, may be prescribed.

Non-pharmacological interventions, including stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and mindfulness-based therapies, can also be beneficial in reducing headache frequency and severity. Addressing underlying sleep disturbances through sleep hygiene practices or medications may further improve headache outcomes in individuals with PTSD.

It is essential for scam victims to adopt a holistic approach that addresses both the psychological and physical aspects of trauma and headache management.


The links between PTSD or psychological trauma and chronic headaches or migraines underscore the complex interactions between psychological and physical health. By understanding the underlying mechanisms and risk factors contributing to this relationship, scam victims can obtain tailored treatment plans that address their unique needs from both conditions. By receiving comprehensive care that addresses both the psychological and physical aspects of trauma and headache management, scam victims can improve outcomes and enhance their quality of life when living with PTSD and chronic headaches or migraines.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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