Unless they get migraines, your friends and loved ones might not understand just how much this disorder affects you. And your migraines are different from everyone else’s, so even other people with migraines might not understand. You might feel criticized or alone. Friends and family might say things like:

"Take some acetaminophen. It works for me."
"How can my perfume give you a headache?"
"It’s just a headache. How bad can it be?"

Knowing that others feel impatient or think your migraine symptoms are “all in your head” can make you anxious and depressed. This page gives you some ways to help your loved ones understand migraines better.

Help your family understand migraines

Most people don’t realize that migraine is a brain disease with many different symptoms, not just a headache. Ask your spouse, partner, and older children to come to a doctor’s appointment with you, especially if you see a migraine specialist. Tell the doctor ahead of time that you are bringing family members, or make a special appointment if you need to.

Ask your family to help

    More than one-third of people with migraines say they don’t feel control over their lives. Talking with your family can help you get some control back. You can:
  • Share a list of your migraine triggers with them so they know what to help you avoid; for example, if your spouse remembers that certain foods trigger your migraines, he can avoid making those foods
  • Write down the signs that usually mean you are getting a migraine; let your family know what to watch for, and if they notice migraine signs, they can turn off the TV, take over a chore so you can rest, or do something else that helps you

Make a migraine plan

Ask a friend, relative, or your spouse to be ready if a migraine strikes. If you have an attack, you might need them to pick up children from school, prepare a meal, or drive you to the doctor.

Plan for what you might need. When you feel a migraine starting, you can call them or text a code such as “M alert” so they know what to do.

Talk about how migraines affect the family

    When you are not having a migraine, take some time to talk with your loved ones about your migraines. Ask how they feel when you have a migraine and when you feel better. You can also ask:
  • How they wish they could help
  • What they wish you could do
  • What you can do or say so they know you care
  • What questions they have about migraine

How to talk with your children about migraines

For younger children, explain that migraine is a problem your body has sometimes. Tell them what you need them to do when you have a migraine, such as rest quietly in a dark room. Explain that they cannot catch a migraine from you.

Let children of all ages know that if you get a migraine, you need to avoid noise, bright light, and anything else that makes the migraine worse. You can even plan a backup activity. For example, if you need to leave the playground, plan that they can watch a quiet movie at home instead.