The Impact of Living with Chronic Migraine

Written by Allie Cooper | January 25, 2022

Almost 40 million people in the United States are estimated to be living with migraine. Globally, that number amounts to 1 billion. When the condition is chronic, debilitating symptoms such as throbbing pain, speech changes, and nausea may manifest more often, which can have a devastating impact on a person’s daily life. This article will dive deeper into the effects of chronic migraine on different aspects of a person’s life and what patients can do to try and help mitigate the impact of this disease.

Effect on Mental Health

As explained in Anxiety & Depression Association America’s overview of headaches, researchers have long noted a correlation between migraine attacks and mental health conditions, particularly anxiety and depression. Patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder often experience headaches as a symptom of their condition, while 40% of patients who live with chronic migraine end up developing clinical depression.

In comparison to the general population, individuals who live with migraine are more likely to have mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. Part of this is due to these conditions being comorbid with migraine, but part is also because experiencing physical pain regularly can put a serious strain on a person’s emotional wellbeing.

Effect on Relationships

The impact of chronic migraine on a person’s mood and energy levels may ripple through their interactions with peers and loved ones. The pain and other symptoms of migraine often make interaction with spouses, partners, friends, parents, or children challenging, and this impact is increased when there is a lack of understanding from friends and family.

Additionally, results of the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study showed that 17.8% of individuals who lived with migraine disease and were in committed relationships (but not living with their partners) claimed that headaches played a role in relationship problems. 3.2% of respondents in committed relationships (and living with their partners) also said that migraine contributed to their choice not to have children, have fewer children, or delay having children.

Effect on Employment

Extreme pain and other symptoms of migraine can hinder a person’s ability to do basic activities, including work-related tasks. People who live with chronic migraine, in particular, may be forced to frequently lose working days. In the worst cases, an inability to make themselves available for work consistently may hinder them from securing employment at all, leaving them the challenge of trying to navigate the disability landscape which is difficult for a healthy person let alone someone who is frequently sick. These challenges can reduce an individual’s ability to become financially independent, which can make them unable to afford proper care and treatment. This creates a downward spiral of disease, causing loss of finances which causes a lower quality of healthcare, which then often results in a continued worsening of the disease or added complications and comorbidities—a spiral that is not easy to get out of.

What to Do During a Migraine Attack

During a migraine attack, self-care is really important, as is rest. While “pushing through” is sometimes necessary, migraine is a serious disease and the attacks should not be minimized. Treatment early on is crucial in order for it to have the most effect, and generally, people need to utilize a combination of “treatments” such as:

  • Abortive medication such as a triptan, gepant or DHE
  • FDA-cleared medical device such as CEFALY, gammaCore, Nerivio, or Relivion MG
  • A quiet, dark place to rest
  • Heat packs or ice packs
  • Essential oils (unless all scents make you worse)
  • Reducing physical movement

Read more tips about what to do during an acute attack in this blog article and take a look at the Migraine Treatment Toolbox for overall treatment options.

How to Manage Chronic Migraine

Headache disorders such as migraine are one of the most common reasons people seek out medical help. However, when it comes to headache disorders there is a devastating lack of medical education for health care professionals. Since migraine is a chronic condition for which there is no cure, and given the impact of chronic migraine specifically, it’s important for patients to look for doctors and healthcare professionals who either have some education on headache disorders or who are willing to learn. This can take some time to find, and it is crucial for patients to be their own advocates in the search. It is also important to learn as much as possible about migraine, since an informed patient generally experiences better outcomes and improved disease management. Migraine Meanderings is a great place to start for that, since we offer multiple resources for people who live with migraine, including a Migraine Treatment Toolbox, FAQs, and a list of certified headache specialists.

Lastly, people who live with chronic migraine should not be afraid to ask for help. There is a lot of stigma surrounding this disease, but it is important to reach out to trusted friends and individuals, connect with a migraine support group online, and even consider therapy to help with pain management. If possible, lighten the load of daily tasks and take the time to care for the mind and body. Chronic migraine is extremely debilitating not only on the body, but also on mental health, relationships, and work, and finding a good support network can make all the difference in the world.

Let Us Know

Do you have chronic migraine? How does it affect your life? What best tips do you have for living with chronic migraine?

Check out our Facebook migraine support group HERE for information, answers to FAQs, support, live events, and much more!

NOTE: this blog was specially written for MigraineMeanderings by Allie Cooper

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