Chronic Migraine Burdens Whole Family

This debilitating disease has significant effects on family relationships as well as the person, a new study shows.

Chronic migraine has significant effects on family relationships and activities, according to the results of a new study.

“The effects of chronic migraine can be devastating and far-reaching. The results of the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) study highlight the significant impact of chronic migraine not only on the person with migraine but on the entire family,” Dawn Buse, PhD, Director of Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center, and Associate Professor, Clinical Neurology, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told ConsultantLive.

Dr Buse led a study to assess the nature and extent of chronic migraine on family activities and relationships. “Among 994 women and men who met criteria for chronic migraine, respondents reported missing both routine and special family events on a regular basis and feeling guilty and sad about how this affected their relationships with their spouses and children,” she said.

Almost three-fourths of respondents said they would be better spouses if they did not have chronic migraine. Almost two-thirds felt guilty about being easily angered or annoyed by their partners because of headache, and at times two-thirds avoided sexual intimacy with their partners because of headache.

The majority of respondents also endorsed that they would be better parents if they did not have chronic migraine. “About two-thirds of respondents reported that they became easily annoyed with their children due to headache,” Dr Buse said. “In addition, slightly more than half of respondents reported that they had reduced participation or enjoyment on a family vacation due to headache in the past year, and 20% cancelled or missed a family vacation altogether.”

The data suggest that women with chronic migraine appear less impaired and burdened by the condition than men. “However, it is not clear whether there is truly a qualitative difference between the sexes in the nature and severity of attacks or differences in responses and resiliency to migraine attacks,” Dr Buse said. “We could hypothesize that males may have a smaller number of family and parenting responsibilities and commitments than females, making their percentage of missed events higher than the percentage for females. It is also possible that mothers and wives feel that they cannot miss a family event or drop a responsibility. In this case they may continue their activities despite debilitating pain and associated symptoms.”

The study highlights the point that chronic migraine is a debilitating disease that can affect all aspects of life, including roles, responsibilities, and relationships within the family. “We hope that these data will help health care professionals further realize the scope of the burden of this condition and be diligent in providing accurate diagnoses and thorough treatment plans,” Dr Buse said. Those treatment plans should include both appropriate pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic (cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and relaxation training) interventions, she noted.

In addition, Dr Buse advises health care professionals to encourage and facilitate patients in seeking help from mental health care professionals when these feelings become overwhelming.

Dr Buse presented the results of the study on June 27, 2014 at the 56th Annual Scientific Meeting  of the American Headache Society in Los Angeles.

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