How to talk to people about migraine

How to help people understand what migraine is

It can sometimes be hard for other people who don’t have migraine to understand what they are like.

This is because it’s an invisible condition, and although migraine attacks can be very painful, other people can’t see them.

Another reason is that most people get headaches from time to time, and think that migraine is just like a bad headache.

You can help them understand what migraine is

Here are some facts and descriptions of migraine that you could use to explain migraine to them:

  • What is migraine?
  • It’s a complex brain condition. It’s definitely not just a bad headache!
  • Why do people get migraine?
  • One in seven people get migraine, so it’s a common condition.
  • Scientists and doctors don’t know why people get migraine but that it is related to their genes, so it often runs in families the way height, eye and hair colour do!
  • While it’s not known why people have migraine, there are things that can trigger migraine attacks. This is different from one person to another but it can include skipping a meal, being thirsty, feeling worried, and missing sleep.
  • What’s it like to have migraine?
  • People with migraine have migraine attacks and these are different for different people. Some people get pain on one side of their head. Other people get head pain and feel dizzy. Some just feel dizzy. Some people get sick. Some get aura, which is when your vision goes fizzy for a short while or your face tingles. Children often have stomach pain when they have a migraine attack, so it’s something that you might have noticed in your stomach when you were younger.
  • It’s important to remember that not only do different things happen to a person when they have a migraine attack, but they last for different lengths. Some people’s migraine attacks last an hour, and they can last a few hours or even a few days for some people.
  • Some people have migraine attacks every day or few days, while some people have an attack once a month or year.
  • Different people have different migraine triggers too. Some people with migraine can be hungry all day and not have a migraine attack, while another person can miss breakfast and then have a migraine attack that morning.

Then you can tell them what your migraine is like

As migraine differs from one person to another, you might want to tell them about what your migraine is like.

  • Your migraine symptoms
  • Tell them what hurts when you have a migraine attack and how much it hurts. You could use a score out of ten to explain it. You could also compare it to another type of pain, such as banging your arm or period pain.
  • Tell them if anything else happens when you have a migraine attack such as if you feel sick, feel dizzy, tired, or can’t see properly.
  • Your migraine patterns
  • Tell them how often you have migraine attacks, how long they last, and your triggers (if you have been able to work out any triggers that you have – not everyone can).
  • What helps your migraine
  • You might not know what helps your migraine, but tell them if you do. Some people find that sitting or lying down in a dark room helps. Other people find sleeping helps. Some people find that opening a window or cooling down can help. Eating or having a glass of water can help some people.
  • If you can, tell people what helps prevent you having a migraine attack in the first place, and what you do once you have a migraine attack.
  • Depending where you are, who you are with, and what your doctor has told you about your migraine, there might be medication you can take when you have a migraine attack.
  • Share what it’s like to have migraine
  • Migraine is different from one person to another, so however you feel about your migraine is okay. It’s okay for it to frustrate you or make you feel sad, and it’s okay if it doesn’t. It’s how you feel, and don’t be afraid to let people know how you feel about migraine.
  • Tell them about the impact it has on you, and how it affects your life and ability to live how you want, from going to school to taking part in activities that you like.