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How to Get Emotional Support for Your Migraines

Migraine can affect your life in more ways than you might expect. Living with long-term pain may leave you feeling isolated or misunderstood. Studies show that having migraine can raise your chances for depression, anxiety, or even suicide.

But you can find help to manage the emotional impact of your migraine. That in turn may help you better handle your migraine pain.

How to Ask for Help

Emotional support can be hard to define. One important kind is a sympathetic ear. It can be anyone who offers encouragement, a different perspective, or advice.

The first step to finding emotional support is to acknowledge that you need it.

Lay the groundwork. Your family and friends can be a powerful support network. Be open and frank about all the ways that migraine shapes your life. If you have to cancel plans at the last minute or if stress is a trigger for you, explain that. This lets your loved ones know that you value their relationship and allows them to better support you.

Communicate your needs. Be specific about how you feel and how others can help you. If certain things create stress and trigger your migraines, ask your friend if you could talk about that to help release tension.

Explore other options. If family and friends aren’t able to offer support, look elsewhere. It could be a religious or spiritual leader. Or you might benefit from group therapy or a support group. A clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist are other options.

Tips for Caregivers

These strategies can help you offer emotional support for a loved one who has migraines.

Listen. Focus first on hearing what’s on their mind. They might have a problem that needs a solution. Or they might simply need an ear to lean on.

Offer specific encouragement. Highlight how their personal strengths and skills can help them get through a tough time. This may be more helpful than general statements like, “Tomorrow’s another day. Hang in there!”

Offer a new perspective. A person with migraines may think about their condition only in a set way. Find ways to help them see possible upsides or think about it from another viewpoint. Make your observations meaningful and useful.

Let them cry. Tears can offer a big emotional release. Make sure they know it’s OK to let you see them cry.

Know your limits. They may need more help than you can provide. But you can still assist them with finding professional or other resources in their community.

Spot the Signs

If you’re unsure about your loved one’s emotional health, look for signs of depression. These can include:

  • Isolation
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or other substances when they do and don’t have a migraine
  • Difficulty with their daily routine like hygiene
  • Low energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Don’t enjoy hobbies or activities they used to

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Amy Wachholtz, PhD, MDiv, MS-PsyPharm, ABPP, FACHP, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical health psychology, University of Colorado, Denver.

Gayle M Taylor-Ford, LSCSW, LCAC, executive director/owner, Therapy Services LLC, Burlington and Emporia, KS.

Noah Rosen, MD, director, Northwell Headache Center; associate professor, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Great Neck, NY.

Mind: “Seeking help for a mental health problem.”

Frontiers in Neurology: “Recent Evidence Regarding the Association Between Migraine and Suicidal Behaviors: A Systematic Review.”

Journal of Affective Disorders: “Prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in patients with migraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

American Migraine Foundation: “Comorbidities of Migraine,” “Why You Need a Migraine Support Network,” “Migraine’s Impact and Depression.”

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