The life of a migraine patient is affected by fear. After a migraine crisis, the suffering continues with the fear of the next attack. Because of this fear, migraine patients live with a lot of stress all the time, but stress is one of the factors that triggers a migraine attack. How can you break this vicious circle? Is there a way for migraine sufferers to live without fear? For Frida van Beek, the fear of an attack is always present. Frida: The migraine controls my life. I can’t go anywhere without the fear of another attack. If I have to go to a party, I have a stomach ache the night before and I don’t want to go, too afraid of the headache. Frida is no exception. Many migraine patients suffer from this fear and carry it as a heavy burden on their shoulders. It hinders them in their normal way of life, and in the long run the fear only increases. The patient’s environment often does not understand what exactly is going on. They think that migraine is the same as a headache and often do not take it seriously. Research shows that the disease occurs in one in ten people in the Western world, and women in particular are often the victims of this disease. So migraines are definitely something to take seriously.
The invisible disease
During an attack I get a severe headache that is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and hypersensitivity to light and sound. Frida says. Sometimes it is so intense that I lock myself in a dark room. Such an attack can sometimes last several days. The symptoms that Frida lists here are the most important characteristics for severe migraines. People may also suffer from changes in mood, extreme fatigue, hunger or cold. The body can retain fluid and they get a swollen stomach or yawn excessively. Another story is by Lisa van Leeuwen. She has suffered from migraines for years and also suffers from auras. Lisa: I was doing well for a long time, but today I had another attack. I was just making bread when I was missing part of my right hand. A moment later the aura started to arise. I broke out in a sweat, out of fear? or simply as a symptom. I don’t know, but it really rules my life. An aura, which Lisa is talking about, is a kind of warning of an attack. The patient sees edges around objects, glare in front of the eyes or a blind spot that greatly reduces vision. Such an attack deeply affects the patient’s life. Unexpected attacks mean that they cannot keep appointments, cannot work or only work half-time and are dependent on others at home, which is also a source of stress and feelings of guilt. Migraine is also called an invisible disease, often unrecognized by the environment, but the toll this disease takes is undeniable. Migraines force many patients to limit their activities and stay in bed.
Little is known about the cause of migraines. There are several theories, but no one has yet provided conclusive proof. After research among various patients, a list has been compiled of so-called triggers, factors that provoke a migraine attack. In women, hormones often play a role in a migraine attack. Many women have migraine attacks before or during menstruation. Taking the pill can also influence migraines. A well-known trigger is light. Too bright or flickering light can trigger a migraine attack. The diet also influences the migraine attacks, some foods are mentioned by patients as triggers, for example alcohol and chocolate. What Frida and Lisa especially suffer from is the fear of an attack, and it is precisely this fear that is the biggest trigger for an attack. Frida: Especially when I have to go somewhere, but also when it’s just a busy day at work, I’m afraid of an attack and I keep thinking: If only I don’t have an attack. It always happens at those moments.
Migraine: your own fault?
Many migraine patients seek help from an alternative doctor such as an acupuncturist, a homeopath or a herbalist. These alternative medicines have one similarity; they all explain the disease based on disturbances in the balance in the body. These treatments therefore place the responsibility for migraine with the patient himself. According to them, migraine is not a neutral condition that happens to you and about which you can do nothing. By getting the body in balance, your body will heal itself and you can get rid of your migraines, homeopaths claim. Frida, Lisa and other patients appear not to be very satisfied with these alternative medicines. Lisa: It had no effect on me at all. I was told to sing and buzz daily to prevent an attack. This made me feel a bit ridiculous and it didn’t help. This treatment also made me feel like I am the cause of my migraines, because the doctor told me that the migraines are the result of my unbalanced body.
Migraine cannot be cured by conventional medicine. In the case of an early migraine, the doctor will try to reduce the symptoms by prescribing a 1000 mg paracetamol suppository. He can also give something against nausea and vomiting at the same time, in the form of a suppository, otherwise the patient will vomit it up again. In severe cases such as Frida and Lisa’s, the doctor will prescribe the drug Imigran. Imigran combats the symptoms of migraine and works quickly in most patients, within half an hour. It has few side effects, but make no mistake, because this is certainly not a harmless remedy! It constricts the blood vessels and must therefore be handled with care. I was relieved when the doctor prescribed me Imigran, says Lisa. During an attack I took an Imigran and for a moment it helped. But after an hour the headache returned, this time even worse than before. I have given up hope for a drug that works well and the fear of an attack has only increased.
Breaking the vicious circle
So there is no definitive solution for migraines. But what about the fear that dominates the lives of many migraine sufferers? This fear actually makes migraine attacks worse. The patients are in a vicious circle from which they cannot escape. Frida: I’ve had enough of migraines controlling my life. And then I’m lucky that I don’t suffer from auras. There is a solution for migraine patients who fear an attack. It is possible to combat anxiety to make life with migraines a little more bearable. If patients have less fear of an attack, the attacks can also decrease, but then they have to work on it themselves. Several types of treatments may need to be tried before finding the one that is effective, but it is well worth the effort. It takes many visits to the therapist, many disappointments and, above all, a lot of patience to reduce the fear of an attack. It is also very important that you tell those around you what you are doing. This way they can try to be more understanding and you will also find it less scary to have to cancel appointments because of the headache. Knowing that your friends understand you makes you less afraid of an attack and the attacks may even decrease over time.
Frida and Li sa’s decision ? They should consult a doctor to find a suitable basic treatment that will eliminate or at least alleviate the anxiety. In these patients, effective psychological treatment can ensure that the vicious circle of migraine-stress-anxiety is broken.