ADHD related headaches can create double trouble for people. New studies show that ADHD and headaches are co-morbid in children, adolescents, and adults. This means that they typically occur together for people of all ages. If you have heard me talk or watched any of my YouTube videos (shameless plug here) then you know I have been talking about this for a while. Let me explain why ADHD and headaches occur together from the stand point of brain patterns.
Why Do ADHD Related Headaches Happen?
If you have ADHD, then your brain is using a pattern of excessive slow processing speed, called Theta. Using Theta is kind of like using the brakes in your brain. For people with optimal brain patterns, Theta use is very low during the day. This helps the person to feel alert, engaged, and focused. At the same time, Beta, fast brain speed, is dominating so that the person can focus and be productive. As the day nears an end, Beta fast speed starts tapering off. Theta kicks in during the evening to help begin to feel sleepy and drowsy as sleep time nears. If you have ADHD, Theta is cranking too much during the day. Also, Beta levels are lower than they should be. A high Theta to Beta Ratio (TBR) has been proven to be the bio-marker for ADHD and it is at the root of people’s symptoms.
Ok, so what does any of that have to do with headaches, you might ask? Stay with me…
When you wake up and go to work and try to focus, you must kick your brain into overdrive if you have ADHD. Your brain has to work twice as hard to accomplish what you need to get done. Overdrive, as I call it, is High Beta, extra fast brain speed. What this means is that High Beta is used in excess throughout the day to offset the braking caused by Theta. This excessive pedal-to-the-metal speed, also offsets the low levels of gassing causes by reduced Beta production. This happens every day a person with ADHD tries to be productive. Ultimately, excessive High Beta causes headaches and migraines. There are scientific studies that prove that High Beta overuse is at the root of headaches.
Can ADHD Give You Headaches?
In one word, yes. ADHD and headaches have been found to exist together. We also know that when trying to concentrate, people with ADHD are more at risk for getting a headache or having more headaches while thinking. Not always is ADHD at the root of headaches. To find more out on what causes Chronic Headaches and Migraines read the post that shows you the difference.
How to Reduce ADHD Related Headaches.
First and foremost, be aware of how you are using your brain. Read my post on the 3 Modes that we put our brains into to find out more. The gist is that you are doing one of three things: producing information, consuming information, or resting. For example, if you are writing a paper, you are producing. If you are studying or reading, you are consuming. If you sit and do nothing (what a novel idea) or take a rest, you are resting.
Next, once you know the 3 Brain Modes, now you can be very careful about how you use your brain across the day. You want to alternate on and off modes. You want to spread out producing and consuming across your day. You want to make sure there are intermittent breaks of rest in between consuming and producing. This way you can concentrate for a bit and recover. Then concentrate some more and recover again. In this way you will balance how you use your brain across the day.
By avoiding the overuse of your brain and preventing it from getting into overdrive and staying there, you can ward off headaches.
What Do I Do if My ADHD Related Headaches Won’t Go Away?
If you are not able to use these techniques, your brain might be stuck in overdrive mode. When a brain gets stuck in overdrive mode, it is using excessive High Beta most of the time. This creates and perpetuates feelings of anxiety and stress. You won’t be shocked to find out that anxiety is also highly correlated with ADHD and headaches. If your brain is stuck it is very difficult for you to get it out of that mode by yourself. That is what Neurofeedback is for. Neurofeedback is proven to shift a brain’s mode by decreasing the use of High Beta and increasing the use of medium brain speed, Alpha, for improved feelings of calm focus.
At Leigh Brain & Spine, the hubs, Dr. Cosmas Leigh, helps people feel and perform better through Neurofeedback training. I help by teaching people how their brains work and how to make them work better. So, if you feel stuck, then check out our office website at leighbrainandspine.com.