Migraine & Relationships
Coping with migraine is rarely a solitary undertaking. Support from family and friends is often key to managing and coping with migraines.
Sometimes, in the health care field, the focus is on the migraine patient, and the needs of family and friends are forgotten or given a lower priority. However, family and friends also need support in order to work in a positive way with the person in their lives who has migraines.
This support can be in the form of migraine information and education, or assistance with developing positive communication and family strategies for dealing with pain. Some information on the potential relationship issues Individuals experiencing migraine may report increased difficulty performing household tasks, attending family events, making commitments to social plans, and maintaining healthy relationships.
These difficulties may lead to feelings of social isolation and many other difficult emotions. Spouses may report that their partners’ migraines reduce their time spent together, interfere with communication and may contribute arguments. Spouses can experience related feelings such as sadness, anger, powerlessness and guilt, which may have a negative impact on their relationship. In addition, there may be related concerns with feelings closeness to one’s partner, sexual intimacy, satisfaction.
Parents of those with migraine may feel guilty if they experience frequent migraine attacks that interfere with family routines. Many parents also report fear and guilt about the genetic component of migraine. If children also experience migraine, parents naturally want to nurture and take their child’s pain away, but may feel powerless to do so. Children of those experiencing migraine may feel the impact of migraine problems amongst their parents and other family members.
Children often experience changes to their routines and parents may miss attending their sporting or school events. While some are understanding, others may be confused, feel angry or neglected. Many people with migraine report that they feel they would be better parents without migraines.
- Are your relationships influenced by your migraines?
- Do you feel that your migraines have interfered with your interpersonal relationships
- Do you feel that conflict within your relationship(s) may have increased the frequency, intensity or duration of your migraines
- Do you find it difficult to communicate about pain with your family or friends
- Do you feel guilty about the effects of the migraines on your family and friends
If you have answered YES to any of the above questions, proceed to the Migraine & Relationships Hints’n’Tips below, as well as the Additional Resources Page for further reading and resources you may find useful. Migraine & Relationships: Hints ‘n’ Tips First and foremost, consider sharing this section of the website with a family members and/or friends.
For the individual experiencing migraine: Some people avoid talking about their pain because they fear others will tire of listening, but silence about pain can lead to miscommunication and assumptions. Find an effective way to talk about your migraine pain. Ask your family member or friend , What is the best way for me to give you updates on migraine pain or How can I best let you know about how I am doing. Consider providing information about your pain together with information on what you need from others, be it support or assistance with a particular task.
People sometimes do not like hearing about pain when they do not know how they can help. For example: I’m coping with a migraine problem and I think I need more exercise. Would you like to start walking with me or My migraine pain has been 8/10 all day, and I have been have difficulty doing things at home. Could you please order pizza and help Sarah with her homework. For the family members and friends: Try not to make assumptions about what the person with migraine pain needs.
Ask How can I help or What can I do when you are in pain or Do you want me to stay home or should I go to the party without you Pain is invisible-you may not be able to tell if your loved one is in pain or not. Because migraine pain may not be obvious to others, remember that this may create a sense of frustration or isolation for your family member/friend. Try asking about pain levels if you are uncertain .
How is your pain out of 10 this morning. Do remember that some individuals may prefer that you not ask about their pain every day, as it draws focus and attention to the pain. It is best that you discuss how to approach this with your family member or friend. Blame When faced with a difficult problem like a migraine disorder, sometimes emotions of anger, fear and frustration may surface as placing blame against someone or something. A frustrated family member or friend might say or think, If youweren’t so stressed out all the time, you wouldn’t get migraines or the person with the migraine might say, If you weren’t so difficult to be around, I wouldn’t get migraines.
Placing blame indicates that someone or something is the cause of or is responsible for a migraine problem. The reality is that migraine problems are nobody’s fault. There is a genetic component that cannot be predetermined or altered. It is important that you not blame yourself for individual migraine attacks, as they may not always be predictable, and trigger factors may be beyond your control. Blame can lead to conflict, stress, negative thoughts and emotions, and ultimately may even contribute to the migraine problem.
Combating blame will require a change in how you think about migraine. Consider this different way of thinking about migraines: The problem is not the person who has the migraine. The problem is not the friend or family member involved. The problem is the problem. The problem is the Migraine. Try thinking of the Migraine problem as an IT, as a thing that may need to be controlled, shrunk or managed. Thinking in this way may help everyone involved to unite against the migraine problem.
Planning Ahead Being prepared in advance can help with regaining a sense of control over the migraine problem. Migraine attacks can be unpredictable in their occurrence, severity and duration. Having a Migraine Preparedness Plan in place may help alleviate some of the anticipatory anxiety you experience.
Here are some tips that you may find useful have some pre-made frozen dinners, leftovers or telephone numbers for your favorite take-out restaurants on hand have a list of your current medication, physician names and telephone numbers prepared in case of an emergency try not to rely only on one person for support develop a network of supporters , someone to carpool with, others to run an errand, others to help at home, etc. write down your scheduled responsibilities/commitments—sometimes pain is too severe to start delegating, and having a list in advance makes it easy for others to take over Supporting Healthy Lifestyles For the individual experiencing migraine give those who are trying to support you information on what kinds of triggers you are trying to avoid and how they can help i f you are learning new skills or strategies for health and headache management, share them with family members and friends ,e.g., everyone can benefit from diaphragmatic breathing.
For family members and friends try to support healthy lifestyles that may help manage migraines by participating ,e.g., be supportive of healthy sleep routines, exercise, relaxation, diet changes, etc.