While people may be familiar with the physical symptoms of migraines and debilitating headaches, the emotional impacts are often overlooked. The emotional toll of debilitating headaches can be just as disruptive to daily life. Understanding these impacts and taking a few steps to mitigate them can greatly improve the quality of life for sufferers. In this article, we will take an in-depth look into the emotional effect of debilitating headaches and discuss some steps to improve daily life for those sufferers.
Emotional Toll of Debilitating Headaches
Living with chronic migraines or other debilitating headaches disorders causes a significant emotional toll that may manifest differently in men and women. Societal stigma and rate of reporting can account for much of the variation between these genders. Below is a general list of impacts that people have reported.
- Loneliness: Like many who live with other invisible illnesses, people who suffer from debilitating headache disorders may experience feelings of loneliness. Physical symptoms often cause them to remove themselves from social situations or isolate from others, contributing to feelings of isolation.
- Guilt: Sufferers may feel guilty when they still experience attacks after learning about their triggers. When their best intentions to reduce risks are not enough to prevent an attack, they may feel embarrassed or guilty even though this is largely out of their control.
- Resentment: It is never fun to cancel plans or to arrive late due to migraine symptoms. People who suffer from debilitating headaches may experience anger and resentment when missing out on exciting events or parts of their daily life due to this disorder.
- Frustration: The historical stigma of portraying debilitating headaches as regular headaches can lead to challenges in accessing care and support from both healthcare providers and peers. These challenges often lead to added emotional distress and frustration.
- Anxiety and Depression: People who suffer from debilitating headaches often report being diagnosed with mental illnesses such anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes these mental illnesses may be partly caused by the migraines, showing the incredible mental impact that chronic pain can have.
While it is always important to consult with your doctor as to specific treatment and prevention options for your care, there are some general recommendations that may help improve the emotional toll.
- Improve Self-Talk: Debilitating headaches can be challenging to manage. It is important to treat yourself with kindness and reduce unhelpful self-talk to decrease negative emotions.
- Communicate with Peers: While you may not want to share the details of your headache disorder with everyone, communicating that you have a chronic illness and need to pace yourself will help to reduce potential social pressure and guilt from missing plans.
- Practice Mindfulness: Incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily life can help in dealing with stressful symptoms as they arise, also reducing negative feelings and alleviating emotional distress.
- Learn Your Symptoms: Tracking the emotional impact of headache disorders as well as the physical symptoms improves awareness and builds your confidence. Knowing what to expect allows you to better understand the source of the emotions and develop a plan to reduce their impact.
- Seek Help: If the emotional impacts of your headache disorder add emotional distress and disruption to your daily life, speak with your healthcare provider or consider joining a support group. Monitoring, developing awareness, and working to improve your emotional state can help lead to a better quality of life.
Learning about the emotional impacts of debilitating headaches is the first step to reducing those impacts and improving overall quality of life. The physical impact of migraines is already overwhelming, so it is important to work on reducing the emotional toll to improve your day-to-day during a cycle or attack.
The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation was founded with the mission to find a cure for debilitating headaches, so sufferers and their families don’t have to go through what Will and his family did. You can part of the continued progression of headache research and knowledge by contributing today.