How to inform the people in your life about Migraine/Headache

Migraine attacks are severe headaches that can be very painful and prevent you from your daily activities, going to school, working or spending time with family and friends. Aside from the debilitating pain, migraine attacks can also cause sensitivity to light, sound and strong smells. Some people may need to lie down in a quiet, dark room while they are having a migraine attack. Others may also experience nausea and vomiting. Migraine attacks can last for days, and even with medications, it may take a while before you can resume your regular activities. Migraine attacks not only affect you but can also have an effect on the people around you. For these reasons, it is important to inform the people in your life about your migraine disease.

It may not be easy for people who have never had a migraine attack to understand what you go through, but there are several ways in which you can make them aware of the disease.

  1. Tell them how you feel when you have a migraine attack. This will help them understand why you may need to cancel plans or avoid certain activities
  2. Ask for help when you need it; it is okay to accept help completing chores or tasks when you are not feeling well
  3. Migraine disease can have an effect on your social life and relationships. Be open to talking to your spouse, significant other, or the person you are dating about your disease. Keeping them informed will help them understand how they can support you. Openly communicate about what type of support you may need and how they can help you when you experience a migraine attack
  4. Create a migraine plan that can be followed by your family when you have a migraine attack
  5. Inform your kids about your migraine disease and adjust the level of information depending on their ages. Even small kids may worry about you being sick but keeping them informed will help them understand what to expect, that you may need to rest, or that you may be unable to play with them when you have a migraine attack
  6. Join migraine advocacy groups and attend meetings and events. Sharing your experiences with others who understand how you feel can be very helpful. Share your experiences with family and friends on social media
  7. Talk to your doctor about treatment options. There are many available options to treat migraine disease, both abortive and preventative. Your doctor can help you come up with the right treatments. Be open with your doctor about your preferences, and any effects that you have with your current medications, or if your medications are not working for you
  8. You can also talk to your boss and/or human resources about your migraine disease, especially if you need accommodations at work. For example, your migraine disease may cause you to miss work, leave early, come in late or take longer breaks. Provide a doctor’s note
  9. You can also share your migraine diagnosis with close coworkers if you feel comfortable. Stigma against migraine disease may create negative perceptions in the workplace. A situation where it would be helpful to inform coworkers is if your migraine disease is triggered by strong perfumes or colognes.

Informing the people in your life not only spreads awareness about the disease, but it also increases acceptance. Share as much as you feel comfortable and tell them how they can support you when you have a migraine attack. You may feel vulnerable when informing the people in your life about migraine disease. It is normal to feel this way; but sharing your story may help you garner the support you need, reduce misconceptions and educate others about this disease, and also may empower others to share their stories as well.


by Dr. Caroline Forrester

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