I'm looking for an expression that describes an unconscious physical reaction to an extremely stressful event where one would put both hands on the top of their head.

My phrase would look something like this: "Fred, growing frantic, holds his head between his hands."

The bold part is the expression in question.


You can say that he is clutching his head. "Clutch" is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

to grasp or hold with or as if with the hand or claws usually strongly, tightly, or suddenly

He clutched his chest and appeared to be in pain.

Here's an example:

Pierre clutched his head and, turning around, walked off towards the woods, treading on the untouched snow and mouthing incoherent words aloud.

“Stupid . . . stupid!"

War and Peace

See also these stock images of people clutching their heads.


There are a number of ways you can use that slightly differ from one another descriptively.

Frantic and increasingly impatient, Fred raises/holds his hands to his head.

Fred is becoming frantic, burying his head/face in his hands.

As a footnote, sometimes such a movement is also accompanied by one pulling their own hair and/or squeezing/rubbing one's face, but not necessarily so.

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