A migraine is an extraordinarily prevalent neurological disease, affecting 39 million men, women, and children in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide. But as many people suffer from migraines directly, how many more experiences them and their less apparent side effects indirectly? Studies have revealed that migraines don’t merely impact the patient—they influence marriages, parenting, and family dynamics.
Recent research studies have shown that most chronic migraine sufferers polled report that their severe headaches have a big impact on their family relationships, activities, and sexual intimacy.
Lead study author Dawn Buse, a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral medicine at Montefiore Headache Center in New York City, points out, “People who don’t experience migraines or have family members with the condition don’t understand how it can affect the entire family. It’s very important to bring this data to light, to show that chronic migraines are burdensome and difficult, not only for the people who live with it but also for the people they love.”
According to the study, “chronic migraine” is defined as having migraine headaches 15 or more days a month. A migraine is a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision.
For the study, the researchers partnered with survey company Research Now to find study participants suffering from migraines. The study included nearly 1,000 people, including 812 women, who met the criteria for chronic headaches. Those people and their spouses and children answered web-based questionnaires.
PEOPLE WITH CHRONIC MIGRAINES SAID THEY OFTEN FEEL WORRIED, GUILTY AND SAD ABOUT HOW THEIR CONDITION AFFECTS THOSE THEY LOVE.
Almost 75 percent of chronic migraine sufferers in the study said they thought they would be better spouses if they didn’t have chronic migraines. And almost 60 percent said they felt they would be better parents without the illness.
Furthermore, study participants said they felt guilty because their headaches make them more easily annoyed or angered. Chronic migraines also made people opt out of activities on a family vacation, or even cancel or miss a vacation. Overall, people with chronic migraines missed family activities and had reduced quality time with their spouses almost seven days a month, according to the study.
It is important to note that this study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and should, therefore, be viewed as preliminary. Furthermore, people who are willing to participate in a web survey may not be representative of the total population of migraine sufferers. Nevertheless, the study’s findings shouldn’t be discounted, as they point toward insights that help us better understand the impact of migraines and avoid writing them off as ‘just a headache.’