Headaches: The Writer’s Curse?

Headaches. It seems like I suffer from one every single day. Most days I wake up with one, other times it sets in later in the evening. They vary in severity from I-got-this to OMFG-kill-me. Sometimes taking a few Advil knocks the headache out in about half an hour, other times it just lessens the pain enough to allow me to get through the day. It’s something I’ve lived with since my childhood.

These are just headaches, mind you. Migraines are an entirely different beast. I’m thankful (yes, thankful) to only suffer a migraine about once every two months. I get quite a few headaches that border on the severity of a migraine, but don’t quite reach that excruciating point. How do you know if you’re suffering from a migraine? Well, with mine, there is no trying to pretend it doesn’t hurt and painkillers rarely help. The barest hint of light hurts, the softest whisper is deafening, and the pounding in my head is usually so ridiculous that I become physically ill and vomit.

Ever since joining the writing community at large on Twitter, I’ve noticed something. A surprising amount of fellow writers also suffer from frequent headaches. This has me wondering. Is there a biological connection between writing and headaches? Is there something in our brain that, while helping to form the creativity and drive to write, links us to being more susceptible to headaches?

I’m certainly no scientist, nor do I know enough about biology to make any real assertions. It’s a curiosity though. In my curiosity, I put forth a question on Twitter:

Here are the responses I got:

In reference to @gypsyroots’ tweet, turns out he made a blog post on this very topic quite some time ago. So I’m not the first person to wonder about a connection between being a writer and suffering from headaches.

Are you a writer who suffers from frequent headaches? What do you think about there being a potential connection? Do you think it’s something biological, or maybe just something as simple as writers being a high-stress lot? Lemme know. I’m curious to discover how many other people out there deal with this on a daily basis and gather your opinions on the subject.

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13 Comments

  1. There could be a connection. Seriously, my writing life really began after the onset of a migraine. i can trace it back to that exact moment in time.

    Or maybe we writers are just more apt to publicly b!tch about it? 😉

    1. There’s always that possibility as well! Twitter definitely makes it easier to publicize all of our woes.

      But in all seriousness, I don’t really know of anyone (counting co-workers, husband’s family, friends, etc.) that suffers from headaches on an almost daily basis. Coincidentally, none of them write either. However, I think I’ve seen about 97% of the writers I’ve met online mention on a fairly regular basis they’re fighting through a headache.

      For me, I think some of it ties back into genes. My mother suffers from chronic headaches as well and my father gets his fair share. I think I was doomed from the get-go.

      We need some Myth Busters or scientists up in this joint.

  2. I think there are sometimes too many things to think about when writing. I get overwhelmed very easily in my writing process. From too many voices, to too many ways to outline. And then, there are the words. I have to get them just right! So, yeah, neurotic, maybe. 🙂 I suffer headaches on occasion. I also suffer migraines on occasion. Most of my headaches are from stress. (not just writer stress, but the stress of being a MomMom and a caregiver). My migraines are both hormonal, and due to a vertebrae out of whack from a car accident several years ago.

    I live with someone who gets DAILY migraines. It’s unbearable at best and debilitating at worse (on both sides of the migraine). I really wish you luck on finding out your triggers. It could very easily be a food allergy. You may want to start a headache journal and see if you can find the “trigger” or common thing that starts it off. I know Chocolate is a huge contributor. The Hubs cannot eat any chocolate anymore and he’s a chocolate freak!

    1. I definitely agree stress is probably a huge contributor. I’m easily stressed out, whether it’s from getting myself worked up over making a self-imposed deadline (which is sort of silly since I don’t have an agent yet and the only person who’ll care is me), scrounging up money for bills, or general mommy things.

      My husband has also been after me for years now to go visit a chiropractor. I’m sort of terrified too though. I’ve heard horror stories. I’m also a big baby when it comes to pain and I just know it’d hurt getting man-handled by a chiropractor for me.

      As far as giving up chocolate goes, we will never speak of this again. I hope chocolate isn’t a contributing trigger. I’m not sure what I’d do with myself if I couldn’t eat chocolate fudge brownie ice cream with Oreos on top any longer.

  3. Rachel…I’ve also suffered from daily headaches as far back as I can remember…most days it’s a 2 on a 1-10 pain scale. Mine are primarily sinus related, and added tension or allergens or hormones can induce migraine-status pain, but I’ve never thought of it as a particularly “writerly” thing to have. Perhaps, it’s all the extra electricity and neurons firing in our brains that make for an overly sensitized part of the body? You could make a case for this or some other equal connection between the two, based on Eastern philosophies of Chi and how our energy flows work. Also Western medicine studies have proved that once specific nerve pathways are incited over and over, permanent changes can occur to the nerves, thus creating a cyclical and never ending pain-stimulus-pain-stimulus response. Very fascinating gobbledegook, for sure!

    1. Thanks for popping by!

      I’d never thought about the Eastern philosophies or heard of the cyclical pain-stimulus research. Some very interesting things to also take into consideration!

  4. I suffer from headaches frequently as well, though I know one contributing factor is the weather. Those are a specific type of pain, though, and usually when those set in I look at the radar map!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a connection between writing and headaches – think of all the time we spend staring at one solitary space. Our eyes NEED to change what they focus on, and we force them to keep working in just one spot.

    1. Agreed. It definitely isn’t healthy to stare at a computer screen as much as we do. I know some of my headaches have come specifically from that.

  5. Writers from the 20’s and 30’s seemed to suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, mental depression, various forms of insanity, infidelity, sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, and hunger. So, over all, headaches are not all that bad.

  6. Wow I found this post by typing “Writers get headaches” into Google. 😊
    I have also suffered from frequent headaches, as far back as my early teens, & although I’ve always written, I very recently began writing seriously. Like, every day, for up to six hours a day. When I’m not actually writing, I’m rewriting, reading, editing, or THINKING about writing. I’m on the second draft of a novel-length manuscript, so it’s pretty much taken over my life.
    Curiously, the daily headaches began around the same time I got all super-serious about writing.
    I think it stems from the combination of reading text on my computer screen, brainstorming my way out of glaring plot holes, & generally concentrating way too hard.
    Writing is so satisfying, I don’t mind the headaches much anymore.
    We are all in this together! Suffering for the craft!

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