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Weird migraine symptom: a deep sense of foreboding

We all seem to have an eclectic assortment of prodrome symptoms, signs that a migraine attack is moving on in.  I have migraine with aura, and auras (changes in vision, tingly skin on half of my face, and sudden increased sensitivity to light and sound are my main signs).

Here’s a weird one for the Janet G. migraine record books:  a deep sense of foreboding.

This has only happened to me a handful of times that I know of, and it’s been mostly in the last 6 months or so.  Maybe I have had this sense before previous attacks but didn’t take note of it, chalking it up to a weird mood and not anything migraine-related.  But it’s happened enough now that I’m pretty sure it’s migraine-related.

It’s not that I feel depressed or sad as part of my prodrome (though that happens, too). It’s that I have a cinematic feeling of deep foreboding, an unshakable sensation that something is very, very wrong.  It’s been strong enough that I’ve worried I’ve become temporarily psychic but am only able to predict vaguely terrifying things.  I’ve worried that I would later look at the date and realize that my feeling of fear and dread was directly related to some global catastrophe—that somehow I knew about this terrible event before the majority of the world was made consciously aware.

Each time this has happened to me, the sense of foreboding disappears as the migraine sets in fully.  As I decide which medication to take (if any) and how to treat my migraine attack, I look back with a Homer Simpson-style “D’oh!” when I see that the feeling of unavoidable dread was perhaps related to an early stage of migraine.

I mentioned this to a few real-life friends with migraine (not that you guys don’t exist in real life—it’s just that we mostly are comrades in this virtual community). Two people said they didn’t have this sensation, ever, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt—after all, most of us have learned the hard way that migraine can be different for everyone.  One friend had an aha! moment when I told her about my realization, though—turns out the same thing happens to her regularly and, through a little sleuthing in her personal journal and her migraine diary, she was able to see a pattern whereby she got a strong feeling of dread and dismay shortly before a migraine arrived.

Have any of you had this sensation? How do you deal with it? Do you ever experience such a strong sense of dread when you are not migraining?  What other weird side effects/symptoms do you wonder about?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • cqtillery
    1 year ago

    My first experience occurred today. I saw moving shapes behind my closed eyelids a few days prior. The day of the headache, I felt oddly non present in my own body as if in a daze yet struggling to be present. I could only describe it as not being myself. I then had this feeling of foreboding or dread, followed by sharp pain in my right temple. The feeling of dread and the headache vanished simultaneously. Thank you for the affirmation.

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    I get hit in the gut with a physical feeling of depression but since I know that it is migraine related I also know how to deal with it.

  • Melanie
    4 years ago

    I have never had a sense of foreboding, but I notice that just before a migraine attack I get very “up”. I am full of energy , very happy and active (more so than usual). Within 12 to 14 hours I get hit with a major migraine.
    During a migraine I get panicked feelings, which make the pain worse.

  • bargri
    4 years ago

    This happens to me also. Not all the time, but it used to drive my Husband nuts. Both the energetic (which helped to get my house cleaning done before I was down for days) but also the panicked anxiety that something horrible is about to happen. I’m sad that you are going through this. I am also comforted that I’m not the only one. Thank you for sharing.

  • Juneleaves
    4 years ago

    For years I’d fall into a deep pit of foreboding/despair/anxiety about 12-24 hours before the actual headache set in. That and I’d smell violet candy or burnt hamburgers. This happens less these days.

    Instead I wake up vaguely empty feeling and emotionless, not having anything to say and feeling disconnected to the world. (And I’m usually a very chatty girl) Kind of similar to what Maryjane said above – sometimes there’s a definite sense of peace. All the chatter in my brain is just gone and everything has fallen away. Other times, especially when I am pressured or need to connect and can’t, I feel super frustrated and decidedly not right with the world.

    It’s as if I’m thinking and speaking with my left hand (I’m a righty.)

    For the most part its when the language and speaking difficulty sets in that I realize what’s going on. (and light and sound sensitivity set in) But that’s within an hour or two of the actual pain.

    I think us migraineurs are so incredibly hyper-sensitive to the shifts in our bodily rhythms. I can say for myself that paying attention and not second guessing what I’m experiencing leaves me less likely to be blindsided by a migraine. But not always of course.

  • bargri
    4 years ago

    I also have this sense that something really horrible is gonna happen. It took a few times of it happening before I realized that it coincided with my migraines. I am now on day 5 (I say that but the pain never goes away). As far as smelling things, I always smell ladies perfume. Obviously, I don’t wear perfume. When this migraine symptom first happened OHHHH my SWEET Husband got into a whole lot of trouble… It was not pretty. But now I realize what it is and we both laugh.

  • cqtillery
    1 year ago

    Too funny!

  • Ellen H
    4 years ago

    I keep reading on this site about feelings, physical symptoms, and more…and maybe that “this” is related to migraines. So here goes a thought…

    The other evening while I was already feeling lousy, I experienced a sudden harsh feeling of “goose bumps” going up my back to my shoulders and into my lower jaw and lower teeth. It felt like biting down on something metal. Strong. Harsh. I could not stop it, but each time, I held my lower jaw in a strong grip until the “bumps”/pain stopped.

    This happened about four times throughout the evening. Maybe?…this is something new with my migraines??? Maybe I should write it down and share it next visit with the doctor??

    Thank you for kind of website where we can share thoughts and guesses and wonderings and possible connections. This might also be a good time to pull out Oliver Sacks and read “Migraine” again for the 400th time?!?

  • KAVD
    4 years ago

    I’ve always referred to it as a sense of impending doom.

  • maryjane
    4 years ago

    Maryjane not Jason yes I 2 felt this weird feeling with a few of my headaches but paid no never mind to it. but I also started menopause and noticed that my migraines are worse just comes out of nowhere and very hard to where it takes me down for about a day and a half.but it puts me into these strange but weird moods of peace and a far away feeling that just knocks me for a loop. I get real quiet and turn everyone off around me yet I feel alone and very happy. is this weird or what? who knows if its even related to anything but that’s how I feel and I keep track of it.i suffer with my migraines I take no meds what so ever no insurance yet…someone explain please.

  • LeslieB
    4 years ago

    Yesterday I felt angry and slightly depressed. Today I woke up with the worst migraine I have had in about 6 months. But I felt great mentally! I’m going to start paying attention to this. Usually my only aura are floaters and occasionally nausea. And thank you to everyone who says they smell smoke! I do also! Sometimes it’s smoke or like a rubber band smell.

  • JanetH
    4 years ago

    I don’t have the smells at present; but I used to get this smell in my nostrils like lighter fluid or raw gas. Sometimes smoke. I see a lot of eye floaters. I do get regular eye exams. Is that frequent for migraine sufferers to see more floaters and squigglies?

  • cydyth
    4 years ago

    yes, this just started over the past year i think. GREAT.

  • Hepcat
    4 years ago

    This does not happen to me, but I have a different and weird symptom that nobody I know has ever experienced. Prior to and during a migrain if I eat something sweet or drink something carbonated my tastebuds hurt. Does this happen to anyone else??? Also, just one of my eyes will water excessively (like tears, but just one eye) 12-24 hours prior to an aura.

  • MargoW
    4 years ago

    I’ve gotten panic attacks before what turns out to be a particularly bad/long migraine. My daughter gets this sense of foreboding with nearly every one of her migraines. It took a long time to link them as she often has silent migraines. Thanks for sharing!

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    Never connected the dots!! Good grief…had that feeling earlier today while at physical therapy. I know that I get a distinct smell of smoke, too. Then auras. Maybe it’s our brains telling us that something is wrong….going to have to keep a better journal as I’ve never thought of this feeling as a prodome signal. Thanks for telling us.

  • xoxoash
    4 years ago

    I have recently noticed this symptom too. I get the absolute worst panic of my life and I get super angry and something as simple as the wind. It is the most intense, scary feeling I have ever felt. I am new to this page and finally do not feel so alone although I am sorry you are suffering too. I am currently on day 6 of a nasty migraine with a constant headache that has lasted over 10 years. I am loosing my mind.

  • RobertCan
    4 years ago

    Janet, I have not noticed this “deep sense of foreboding” as part of my list of prodrome symptoms, but it’s something I’ll be looking for going forward.

    One of my eclectic symptoms is that I smell cigarette smoke in my non-smoking home. How whacked is that? No one has ever smoked in my home, yet I clearly smell it, even before aura sets in. My neurologist just smiles when I mention it and says he doubts its connected because none of his other patients have reported anything similar. Perhaps its a male thing because I’m the only male migraineur in his practice.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • ahnonnymust
    4 years ago

    Robert, I often smell cigarette smoke before a migraine! I’m not a man, though. My husband is sure I’m crazy when I ask if he smells it. No one else ever does. No one has ever smoked in our home either. I’ve gone so far as to see if someone is smoking next door and it’s possibly blowing in our direction, but nope. Occasionally it will smell a little more like wood smoke, but it’s usually cigarette smoke. I can’t figure it out. I’ve actually smelled it most of the day today, so I expect tomorrow to be a bad day. It usually happens 12-24 hours before the migraine peaks.

    I just thought it was one of those weird things like smelling lemons before a migraine. I never thought to bring it up with my neurologist.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    Oh geez Janet I know this exact feeling!! I will have to note if it comes with my migraines or not and will let you know!

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