As supportive as they are, friends and loved ones may not fully understand how migraine disease impacts your life. Your experience with migraine is different from everyone else’s, so even others living with migraine may not understand your situation. You may feel uncomfortable being open about your migraine experience and stigma may make feel judged or alone. Well-intentioned people share unsolicited advice and information about unfounded cures and treatments.
Friends and family might say things like:
“Take some acetaminophen. It works for me.”
“How can my perfume give you a headache?”
“It’s just a headache. How bad can it be?”
Knowing that others feel impatient or think your migraine symptoms are “all in your head” can make you feel anxious, depressed, and alone. This page gives you some ways to help your loved ones understand migraine disease better.
Help your family understand migraine
Some friends and family may dismiss the severity of migraine disease. Explain that migraine is a neurobiological disease affecting 40 million Americans. No two people experience the exact same symptoms, triggers, and responses to treatment. Invite your partner, close friend, or adult children to join you at your next visit with your headache specialist. Discuss with your doctor ahead of time that you are bringing a support person with you.
Ask your family to help
More than one-third of people with migraine say they don’t feel control over their lives. Talking with your family can help you get some control back.
Share a list of your migraine triggers with them so they understand what you need to avoid; for example, if your loved ones know that certain foods trigger your migraine attacks, then they will be better equipped to prepare trigger-free meals. Your friend who burns scented candles will know to air her apartment out before you visit if you let her know that strong scents are a trigger for you. Explain that migraine triggers vary from person to person. There are emotional triggers (stress and anxiety), physical triggers (changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, physical exertion, and eye strain), and environmental triggers (strong odors, bright lights, and loud noises).
Share a list of what you experience in the prodrome phase leading up to the onset of a migraine attack; let your family know what to watch for, and if they notice migraine signs, they can turn off the TV, take over a chore so you can rest, or do something to make you more comfortable. You can also share a list of what you experience in the final phase of a migraine attack, the postdrome phase.
Make a migraine plan
Ask a friend, relative, or your spouse to be ready if a migraine strikes. If you have an attack, you may need help picking up children from school, preparing a meal, or driving you to the doctor.
Explain that many people living with migraine must keep a flexible schedule due to the possibility of an attack. You don’t have to attend every party or family get-together if you aren’t feeling well or you are worried about potential triggers. Your well-being should be your priority.
Talk about how migraine disease affects the family
When you are not having a migraine, take some time to talk with your loved ones about your condition. Ask how they feel when you are having a migraine attack.
You can also ask:
How they wish they could help
What they wish you could do
What questions do they have about migraine
How to talk with your children about migraine
For younger children, explain that migraine is a problem your body has sometimes. Explain that they cannot catch a migraine from you. Tell them what you need to do when you have a migraine attack, such as rest quietly in a dark room.
Let children of all ages know that if you get a migraine, you may need to avoid noise, bright lights, and anything else that makes the migraine worse. You and your children can prepare a migraine busy box with age-appropriate activities, books, and movies to keep children occupied with quiet activities during your attack.
Developed by Med-IQ in collaboration with the National Headache Foundation.