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How Chronic Migraines Can Impact Family Life

Posted by Mark Khorsandi, D.O. on Jun 19, 2019 4:44:00 PM

migraines affect family life

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic migraines, the following may sound familiar:

  • Shortened or canceled vacations
  • Absence from family dinners, birthdays, holidays
  • Irritability due to migraine pain
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Feelings of isolation and being a burden

A migraine is much more than just a headache. And if someone suffers chronic migraines, he or she has more than just a headache 15 days or more a month. That’s half of their life. You can imagine the impact it has on them.

Now let’s talk about the impact on family life.


Chronic vs. Episodic Migraines

A migraine is a recurring, throbbing headache on one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, dizziness, and intense sensitivity to light, noise, and/or smell. Around 38 million Americans experience migraines.

Episodic migraines are defined as migraines that occur fewer than 15 days a month, although many sufferers experience a migraine on a somewhat regular basis due to various triggers or other issues.

Chronic migraines, as noted in the opening, are defined by having a migraine 15 or more days each month. Most migraineurs are suffering from a migraine or recovering from one every day of their lives. Someone with chronic migraines carries a heavier burden than someone with episodic migraines.

Statistics from the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes Study

The study mentioned above, designated as CaMEO, is a massive, longitudinal study of how family life is impacted by migraines. In particular, it teased out data comparing the effects of chronic vs. episodic migraine. Several areas of life are considered:

  • Reduced participation or enjoyment of family activities.
  • Missed or canceled events.
  • Interactions with a spouse.
  • Financial impact.
  • The effect of parent-child interaction on the child.
  • The effect of parent-child interactions on the parent with migraine

Analyzed every few years, the results are presented at the American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting.  The 2018 study incorporated the responses from 13,064 migraineurs with the following results.


Chronic Migraineur

Episodic Migraineur

Likely to suggest headaches contributed to relationship problems



Of those in a committed relationship but not living together reporting headaches as the root cause of some relationship concerns or prevented them from developing a closer relationship with a significant other



Reported headaches resulted in problems or the termination of at least one relationship



Those in committed relationships and living together that agree they would be a better partner if not for the headaches



Delayed having children or having fewer children than desired as a result of migraine burden



The researchers were not surprised by the difference in the quality of life between chronic and episodic migraine sufferers. However, they were surprised by the magnitude of the difference. The impact of chronic migraines on family life was much more significant than previously thought.

The Impact of Chronic Migraines on the Sufferer

Migraineurs suffer mood and emotional health problems ranging from anger and sadness to depression and anxiety. They are frustrated by the impact their migraines have on their families, and their emotional issues place them at higher risk of stress, hopelessness, helplessness, and self-harm.

They feel isolated and alone as if others don’t understand what they are experiencing. They also feel like they can’t be counted on to follow through on commitments, influencing their identity as a person. They experience a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than those with episodic or no migraine burden, and both the sufferer and the family experience increased emotional distress.

Chronic migraine sufferers are more likely than episodic sufferers to be obese, have a lower income, and less education. Many lose 3.6 times more days a month to migraines than an episodic migraineur.


The Impact of Chronic Migraines on Family Life

Chronic migraineurs reported a reduction in family activities of at least seven days in the previous month, although women were significantly less likely to miss vacations or report stress with a partner between attacks than men.

The reasons for this are unknown, but speculation suggests the possibility that women are less impaired by migraine than men are, women take on more family responsibility that cannot be delegated, or mothers and wives feel like they cannot miss a family event and cope despite the pain and symptoms of severe migraine.

Over half of sufferers reported reduced participation or enjoyment on a family vacation and 20% canceled or missed family vacations the prior year.

As for daily life, migraineurs reported at rates of nearly 60% to 70% that they were easily annoyed or angered by partners during an attack. Also, they reported feelings of guilt about the migraine impact on the partners. They were more easily annoyed by children and reported guilt about the effect on their children’s lives. Most migraineurs reported they felt their migraine burden made their partner’s lives harder.

The Impact of Chronic Migraine on Partners, Children, and Adolescents

Those with chronic migraines avoided sexual intimacy because of pain at the rate of 67%, while half felt they would be better parents without migraines. Adolescents, defined as children between the ages of 11 and 17 years old, reported the most effect on general well-being and their relationship with their migraineur parent.

The more frequent the migraines, the more significant the impact found on an adolescent's well-being and personal future. The worse the pain, the higher the emotional impact and burden on a child who must help the parent every day. About 58% of adolescents said they would appreciate help in dealing with the effects of a parent's migraine.

How You Can Regain an Enjoyable Family Life

Here at the Migraine Relief Centers, we believe migraineurs can regain a fulfilling family life with the correct diagnosis and treatment. We understand the burden chronic migraines impose on all aspects of your life and keep your disability in mind when planning treatment.

Physicians who lack the depth of knowledge about migraines may not understand the massive impact chronic migraine can have on the sufferer and the family. The physicians at the Migraine Relief Center know full well the burden you carry.

  • We design comprehensive treatment strategies and help you become more open to trying new treatments.
  • We are knowledgeable about the variety of medications available to prevent migraines as well as those for acute use.
  • We know that cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication provides the greatest chance of success.

The Migraine Relief Center can pinpoint your triggers and suggest a variety of non-medication treatments from relaxation therapy to stress management to decrease the frequency and severity of your migraines. We will also talk with your loved ones about the best ways to help you with your condition.

Contact The Migraine Relief Center to find out how we can help you get your happy family life back with the right treatment.

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Topics: Migraine, Symptoms

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