The Many Causes of Headaches and Why They Can Be Common Among Teens

Headaches are an uncomfortable and painful experience. Whether you’re a teen or adult, headaches can get in the way of getting homework done, spending time with friends, or enjoying a quiet afternoon.  According to Dr. Nick DeBlasio, a pediatrician in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Pediatric Primary Care Clinic, about 27% of teens experience headaches. This article will address the possible causes of headaches in teens and explore the ways headaches can be prevented.


Headaches come in various forms. They can occur on either side of the head, isolated in one area, or the pain can spread out across the head from one point. A headache might also be a sharp pain. It can sometimes be throbbing. Or it can be a light sensation or a dull ache. It’s possible that different types of headaches are the result of different circumstances. For instance, the lack of water might trigger a certain kind of headache, while difficulty seeing might trigger another. Teens can experience a wide range of headaches, depending upon their causes.


The common causes for headaches in teens include:

  1. Not drinking enough water. This is the most common reason for teen headaches. Not getting enough fluids, especially when it’s hot outside can affect the body in a variety of ways. When it’s dehydrated, headaches are a common result.
  2. Missing a meal. Too much caffeine and sugar can create headaches. When meals are balanced with plenty of vegetables, headaches are less likely to occur.
  3. Lack of sleep. Teens need at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep.
  4. High levels of stress. Teens can feel burdened by high amounts of stress. They feel the pressure of getting their schoolwork done, but also pressure their peers as well as from their parents. Too much pressure at once can create headaches.
  5. Emotional turmoil. When there is emotional turbulence in a teen’s life, this can also be the cause of headaches. If a teen’s parents are divorcing or if a friend commits suicide, a teen’s emotional disturbance might create headaches.
  6. Difficulty seeing. Sometimes when teens are straining their eyes to see, this can also result in a headache. An eye test can help decipher whether a teen’s headaches are the result of vision concerns.
  7. Depression. One of the symptoms of depression is experiencing headaches. There are a variety of other symptoms so experiencing headaches alone won’t indicate that a teen has depression. However, it’s important to be aware that having headaches can be one of the symptoms of depression, among many others.


As you read the above list, you might recognize that many headaches can be prevented. When teens are drinking enough water, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and managing the stress in their life, they are less likely to experience headaches.


If a teen is experiencing headaches due to depression, however, it’s important that a parent or caregiver have their child assessed for other mental illnesses, such as anxiety. With an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan can be developed. Over time, as depression lifts, those headaches will likely go away.


Lastly, if headaches continue in your teen, after having addressed the above causes, visit your doctor for more information.