My Head Feels Like It’s Going To Explode (Exploding Head Syndrome?)

Mild headaches are caused by tension or by exhaustive routines. But the sharp headache that gives you a feel like your head is going to explode indicates the intense health problem you might be going through. Severe health conditions like head injury, tumor, brain aneurysm, tension, or migraine can be the reason behind your intense headache.

When I was thirteen years old, I had mild headaches accompanied by a feeling of some pressure on my left side of the head.

During the summer of 2010, the feeling intensified, and I felt as though my head could explode at any time. The headache was still mild, but the pressure that I was feeling in my head was overwhelming.

I was also feeling dizzy and nauseous. My parents took me to the ER, where I had several tests performed. A head scan and MRI revealed that I had a brain tumor causing a lot of pressure on the left side of my brain. The tumor was responsible for my suffering for around two years.

I was scheduled for surgery, and within the next few weeks, I got the tumor removed and recovered without complications. Although I experienced no complications post-surgery, I now struggle with migraines periodically.

Could you be having a pressurizing feeling in your head and sometimes fear that your head could explode? Keep reading this article and learn of some causes of your condition.

What causes the head to feel like it’s going to explode?

There exist several health conditions that may be responsible for the weird feeling. Some of these health conditions may present mild or severe symptoms of nausea, headache, or vomiting.

In most mild symptoms of head pressure, there may be no course for alarm. However, other severe health conditions may lead to severe pressure in the head, and they need immediate medical attention.

Depending on the location of your pressurizing feeling, the doctor will identify the possible cause of your ailment. The table below summarizes the location where your head feels like exploding and possible health causes.

Location of the pressure feelingCause
Entire head1. Head injury resulting in a concussion
2. A tension headache
Forehead1. Sinus
2. A tension headache
Top of the headTension headache
Jaw, cheeks, or face1. Sinus headache
2. Dental issue
3. Tension headache
Ears/temples
Eyes and eyebrows
1. Ear problem
2. Dental problem
3. Sinus
4. Tension Sinus
Back of the neck or head1. Dental problem
2. Concussion tension
One side of the head1. Ear condition
2. Tumor
3. Dental problem
4. MigrainePain from the top of the head downwardsA brain aneurysmAt the top of the skullMigraines

All these health conditions may cause your head to feel like it’s exploding at certain locations. Since the head houses the brain, which happens to be the main organ, the doctor will need to make the correct diagnosis.

Explaining to the doctor where the pressure originates will help them in the recommendations of the test for correct diagnosis.

In 2017, a student I was teaching had a severe headache that the local doctor misdiagnosed as a migraine. When the symptoms worsened, the doctors later discovered that the minor had a brain tumor that resulted in a brain aneurysm.

The child got the required medical attention, and surgery saved his life, but he used a wheelchair. The delay in the proper medical attention resulted in some brain damage which affected his mobility.

This scenario emphasizes correct diagnosis when you experience headaches associated with pressure-like feelings in the head.

Let’s discuss some of these medical conditions associated with our head feeling like it’s going to explode. This feeling results from pressure build-up in the head.

Tension headache

When we suffer from a tension headache, we may experience some pressure in the head that may be equated to an elastic band squeezing in our headaches. This condition results in the most common type of headache.

This headache results from:

Ear conditions

Most ear conditions lead to a build-up of pressure on the temples, ears, face, or jaws. Since we have two ears, this feeling may occur on either side of the head or both. These ear conditions may be a result of ear infections or blockages from earwax.

Some other causes include:

  • Ear barotraumas
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Ear infection
  • Eardrum rupture  

The doctor will provide you with the right medication upon diagnosis of ear conditions and provide you with the required drugs. Once the condition clears, the exploding feeling in your head disappears.

Sinus conditions and headaches

A woman is clenching the sides of her nose because she's having a headache along with sinus conditions.

The pressure you may be feeling causing your head to feel like exploding may be due to a sinus condition.

While your nose gets stuffy, you may also feel a constant pressure on your ears, jaws, back of the forehead, or cheekbones.

The sinuses, which consist of interconnected cavities behind the forehead, eyes, nose, and cheeks, often get an inflammation. Inflammation in the sinus triggers excess mucus production. This excess mucus causes pressure in the head, leading to sinus headaches.

Sinuses may be caused by:

  • Sinus infection
  • Flu and colds
  • Allergies

If the doctor diagnoses you with sinus, medicines will clear the infection or flue and prevent allergies. The pressurizing feeling disappears upon treatment.

Concussions/Head Injuries

Concussions lead to a feeling of mild pressure in the head associated with confusion, dizziness, and nausea.

Concussions happen when sudden injuries to the head cause the brain to twist, bounce or shake. Accidents and falls or sports injuries account for many cases of head injuries.

Migraines

Migraines refer to a pulsing or throbbing pain that leaves your head feeling pressurized. This headache differs from other common headaches due to the throbbing and pulsing which occurs in specific areas.

This pressurizing pain occurs on one side of the head and feels so intense it may disable you.

Migraines present a common type of headache during teenage and the early stages of adulthood. The stages of migraines may offer mild headaches at the beginning, which become severe as you grow.

Other symptoms of migraines include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound

There exists no known cause for migraines, but some experts suggest that genetic and environmental factors may cause them.

Brain Tumor

When you feel a pressure build-up to your head that becomes severe over time to the extent your head feels like exploding, it might be due to a brain tumor.

Although rare, the cells in our brain grow and form an abnormal mass that leads to a tumor. When this mass presses on the brain, it may cause associated symptoms like memory problems, difficulty walking, and impaired vision.

These tumors in the brain will present themselves in non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (Malignant) forms.

When the tumors originate from the brain cells, then they become Primary tumors. But, when the tumors originate from cancerous cells traveling from other body parts, they become Secondary tumors.

When you visit the doctor and learn that the pressure you felt resulted from a brain tumor, the doctor will advise on the right form of treatment.

The treatment varies depending on whether the tumor presents itself in malignant or benign nature. For example, the treatment may involve chemotherapy and radiation for malignant tumors and surgery or radiation for benign tumors.

Brain Aneurysm

When a brain aneurysm occurs, a person may experience an abrupt pressure build-up in the head associated with a throbbing headache. The pain occurs suddenly, and it appears as the worst headache that you may have ever experienced.

This condition requires immediate medical attention, and so, if you ever experience these symptoms call your local emergency number immediately. A brain aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel in the brain balloons or bulges.

The excess pressure on the bulging vessels may feel like your head may explode at any time. If the pressure increases, the blood vessel may rupture and bleed on the brain.

If the blood vessel ruptures, your life gets in danger, and it may lead to death. The excruciating pain occurs when the blood pours on the brain where multiple nerve endings occur. Brain aneurysm patients require immediate medical attention.

This condition may be caused by:

Covid-19

The Covid-19 disease, which results from an infection of the novel Coronavirus, presents itself with a throbbing headache.

The headache may feel like a squeezing, tight sensation around your head—the pressure-like feeling results from a cytokine storm within your body, which causes inflammation and pain.

Since the virus affects the respiratory system, sinus and flu-like headaches may also act as symptoms.

Other Covid-19 symptoms include:

  • Body weakness
  • Exhaustion
  • Body ache
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pneumonia
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough

Up to August 2021, the Covid-19 disease continues to cause a risk to many lives. The pandemic has caused millions of deaths worldwide, and we need to take all precautionary preventive measures to avoid infections.

The World Health Organization urges people to get vaccinated, wear preventive masks, wash hands, and sanitize their hands and high traffic surfaces often.

Headaches and pressure-build up in the head may result from other causes like:

  • Hunger and dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Strong medication
  • High blood pressure
  • Meningitis and encephalitis infections
  • Stroke
  • Head/neck muscle strains
  • Exploding head syndrome

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do Covid-19 headaches feel like?

Covid-19 headaches feel like a tight squeezing sensation on your head

How do you get rid of the pressure in your head?

The pressure you might be feeling in your head has a health condition issue attached to it. By treating the underlying health condition, the pressure stops.

What does exploding head syndrome feel like?

This syndrome feels like a bomb explosion, fireworks, or a gunshot and leads to confusion.

Is exploding head syndrome a sign of mental illness?

This syndrome has no known cause yet, but professionals think a neurological complication might cause it. Others relate the syndrome to clinical fear and anxiety.

Final thoughts

While pressure in the head leads to an exploding feeling in the head, many causes may be tied to the condition. Just like I turned out to have a brain tumor while a teenager, the pressure you may be facing might be a sign of a serious medical issue.

My student years later in my career ended up disabled due to a delayed medical procedure to his brain aneurysm. These scenarios give you a reason to treat all headaches and an exploding feeling in your head with the medical seriousness they require.