Dos and Don’ts for Supporting a Loved One with Migraine
When you see someone you care about experiencing a migraine attack, you may feel helpless. You want to help them feel better, but you just don’t know what you can do.
Take heart: You can help your loved one with migraine. Try these suggestions for what — and what not — to do.
Don’t say to someone with migraine, “I know how you feel.”
Your heart’s in the right place, and you want to show empathy. But unless you live with migraine yourself, you probably don’t know how it feels. Migraine attacks can be painful, disorienting, frustrating, unpredictable and anxiety-producing. Even the worst headache you’ve ever had really can’t be compared to migraine.
Instead of trying to show your loved one that you understand what they’re going through, simply listen. Ask them to tell you what it feels like (at a time when they’re not experiencing a migraine attack) and what helps them.
Do research migraine so you understand the basics.
Taking the time to learn about migraine is a great gift to give your loved one. You’ll be able to have better conversations about the condition if you understand the science behind it, the phases and symptoms of migraine, and the treatments that are available.
- The Mayo Clinic offers a detailed, easy-to-read introduction to migraine.
- The American Migraine Foundation offers a selection of free downloadable guides on different migraine topics.
- We’ve put together a glossary of common migraine terms, such as aura, prodrome and medication overuse headache.
Don’t pressure your loved one to rally or “just get over it.”
Tonight is a mutual friend’s 30th birthday dinner, and you’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. But your loved one got ambushed by a migraine attack, and now they’re flat on the sofa. It’s not fair — you really wanted to go!
It’s OK to feel disappointed, but it’s important to understand that the person with migraine feels even worse. They wish they could go to the party, but it’s just not possible to power through a migraine attack. Nudging them won’t change that.
Do suggest concrete ways to help.
When someone is in pain, our first instinct is often to say, “Just let me know if there’s anything I can do.” It’s meant well, but that puts the burden on the person with migraine to ask you for a favor. Instead, offer to take actions that you know your loved one will appreciate. For example, you could:
- Bring them relief: ice packs, medication or their CEFALY DUAL
- Help prepare a cool, dark room where they can rest
- Offer to get groceries or prepare a meal
- Take care of pets or children in the household
Do be aware of your loved one’s migraine triggers.
Many environmental and diet triggers can set off an attack. Common migraine triggers include strong smells, alcohol, caffeine, certain foods and food additives, stress, weather changes, and changes in sleep patterns. Ask your loved one about their triggers so you don’t inadvertently spark a migraine by (for example) wearing perfume or using harsh cleaning products.
Get some valuable tips: How To Clean Your House Effectively Without Triggering A Migraine
Do tell your loved one that you’re with them, 100%.
Migraine can play havoc with a person’s self-esteem. During and after an attack, a migraineur may feel depressed, anxious, useless, even guilty. To support them, focus on the positive. Tell them that they will get through this. Acknowledge their strength and resilience. Reassure them that you love them just the way they are.
If you think your loved one may be suffering from clinical depression or anxiety, encourage them to see their neurologist or other healthcare provider. And remind them that there is hope: Many people with migraine find treatments that work to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.