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Do Migraines Make You Sad or Mad?

Do Migraines Make You Sad or Mad?

In my experience, people generally respond to migraines with two different extreme emotions: sadness or anger. Which are you? This challenging condition is hard on us all. We experience debilitating pain and correlating exhaustion. It’s easy to feel waves of anger and sadness when migraines rob us of the most wondrous parts of our lives. However, in response to the same situation, ultimately, many of us land, and sometimes live, in one of these two emotional camps.

Infuriated into action

I have encountered many people with migraines who are infuriated with the way migraines have ruined the lives they once knew. They are incredulous at the way the condition has so drastically affected their lives. They are shocked at how little research is being done to address migraines. It is ludicrous to them that a complex neurological condition that impacts more than 37 million Americans has garnered so little attention in the media and among the medical community. How can it be that there are so few specialists; and so few treatment options? It is unacceptable that the few medications available to them have so many side effects. And, finally, they are mad at the injustice of having the condition in the first place.

Heartbroken into compassion

The other primary group I encounter come at the condition differently. These people are also reflecting on all that has been taken and all that has changed, but their emotional response is not one of fury, but instead of grief. They are heartbroken. They are heavy with sadness at all they have lost. You won’t find them rallying for a fight, but gathering for a group hug. The pain and related loss of life activities cause a pit in their stomach, a punch to their gut.

I wonder whether there is a correlation between how we respond to migraine and how we react when we get physically hurt. When we accidentally touch a hot stove, we all pull back in self-protection. Some yell out with a curse and kick the nearest wall. Others respond with a whimper and gently pamper their hand.

“Depression is anger turned inward”

Freud believed depression is anger turned inward. This seems to hint at the idea that those who are not releasing their frustrations outwardly are instead turning their sadness in on themselves- becoming weighed down in the process. Conversely, the Five Stages of Grief as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross tell us that we must work through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In this process, “depression” (sadness) is a positive and more advanced step than anger when it comes to achieving resolution in a difficult situation.

No matter how we react to and handle pain, we all have something useful and powerful to offer one another.

The angry among us may channel their anger into advocacy, pushing for more migraine funding and research. These advocates refuse to accept “no” for an answer. Meanwhile, the grieving among us may channel their grief into compassion, offering support to those who suffer. The truth is, we best address migraines when we work together.

Finding the balance

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to feel and no one way to feel. However, thinking about how you tend to feel and react might help you reflect on what drives you forward and what holds you back. What is helping or hurting you? Obviously, we all feel mad and sad sometimes, but reflecting on the emotions you wake up with most mornings may also help you seek more of an ultimate balance.

Ironically, despite the emotional extremes, we can land in the same place. Both anger and sadness can lead people to feeling stuck. Anger and crying can both also trigger migraines.

Finally, it must be noted that this whole idea is an over-simplification for those of us dealing with clinical depression (a frequent comorbid condition of migraine). Simply bringing focus to our emotional state won’t do anything when there’s a chemical imbalance at play. Further, it is an oversimplification to look at only two emotions. There is a huge and beautiful array of emotions that lie between and stretch outside of anger and sadness. Hopefully migraines don’t limit us to only two feelings. Still, it is interesting to think about how these two big emotions yank us migraineurs around. They are tough ones to navigate and bringing consciousness to the way they impact us might help.

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

Comments

  • greeneyednanny
    4 months ago

    I don’t think there’s enough space for me to list ALL the emotions that migraine evokes in me! Certainly, anger is ONE of them.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    4 months ago

    Such a good point. It certainly isn’t as simple as anger or sadness – black or white. There is a LOT of gray area when it comes to the emotional complexities that are at work as a result of life with migraine. It’s an interesting idea to list them all. Might be a therapeutic exercise perhaps just as a way to vent. Thanks for chiming in – glad you’re a part of our community.

  • mrst53
    5 months ago

    I know that I have been angry about this disease and depressed over not being able to conquer it. After 53 years of migraines, I think that I am resigned to have these forever. I try to do things. I have a 3 year old grandson, that I want to be there for. I still try to find new ways to treat my migraines. I have found a wonderful Spine and Pain clinic, that are trying to get rid of my migraines. I have been having 8 injections in my head. They seem to be working at least for now. Find a pain clinic. They will work with you and not necessarily hand out pills. We need to try and find ways to live without the pills. I hate to take pills, but I will if that’s the only way.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    You bring up a great point about the difference, process, and intersection between anger and resignation- or rather, I might insert the term, acceptance. We can spend years and loads of energy being angry about having migraine- getting caught up in the injustice of it all- all the time spent seeking solutions to no avail. Many of us come to a point that we let that go and come to a place of acceptance, thus freeing up that negative energy to be used for better things: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/the-intersection-between-hope-and-acceptance/

    And yes, finding a solid partner in a doctor and/or pain clinic is a huge and important step for every migraineur. Thanks so much for sharing, as always, @mrst53!

  • bluesguy
    5 months ago

    Hi Holly, once again, you have written such a good article that I completely relate to. I very much appreciate the time you have taken. And I appreciate the dedication you show to all migraine sufferers, by writing these articles that are so relatable. I have fallen into the depressed group. I miss the life which I once had. Migraines have taken so much of my identity, and have left me feeling like some one who keeps losing the fight. For me, the sadness is often overwhelming. But I keep fighting, and I try to enjoy the good days/hours as much as I can.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hey there- so great to hear from you, as always. Thank you so much for being a part of our community.

    Having migraine is such a rough and demanding battle. I’m not one who responds with anger either and I find I don’t have the energy for it because the migraines are so depleting. Accepting migraine can help free up that energy and help us let go of some of that sadness and sense that we are losing the fight. https://migraine.com/blog/on-acceptance-productivity-and-pain/

    Stay in touch!

  • Nikita212
    5 months ago

    I find I feel both emotions at different times. Right now I’m angry because I drove over 14 hours to spend Christmas with my fam3. For the last three days I’ve had a terrible migraine. I don’t have the energy to muster up strong emotions. My major feeling is frustration. Migraine is stealing my time. If I had something that would ease the pain without knocking me out I’d take it.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    What incredibly frustrating timing. And I know the that feeling of not even being able to muster the emotions to respond because you’re either too worn out, or the anger and tears will only make things worse. You are not alone in feeling robbed: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/looking-for-the-bright-side-of/

    So glad you’re a part of our community. Really hoping that holiday migraine attack has lifted. Stay in touch.

  • mrst53
    5 months ago

    Try to find a Pain clinic. I have had injections in my head. The headaches are gone for at least a week and more.

  • Primrose17
    5 months ago

    Rage and fury, pure rage. I think I was raised (as many kids are) under the falsehood that life is fair, just, and equitable and its taken some decades to adjust to the reality! Plus I’m an idealist at heart. That rage however has always been very productive, and my health & migraines have improved because of it. I think anger is life preserving. Frankly, I think if women got more angry the world would be a better place. (Especially for women.) There’s that idealism again. 😉

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    I’m also a glass half-full kind of gal: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/looking-for-the-bright-side-of/

    I’m interested in your point about anger being a preserving. It certainly is powerful and I, as someone who tends more towards responding with sadness, am always in awe of those who respond with infuriation.

    So glad you’re a part of our community. Please stay in touch!

  • jmedlin
    5 months ago

    Hi I was reading this and realised I don’t know how I feel about my migraines as they became chronic over a time when my autistic son was diagnosed with comorbid mental health issues and my husband nearly died from heart issues. What I did recognise is that I went through the same shaming issues with my sons autism . His presentation like migraine is not visable and like migraineurs should just take some meds and get on, so should he. In fact I realised how few people I have actually ever told about my migraine because I had already learned that most people don’t have the ability to understand. The interesting thing is that people are able to be compassionate about my husbands heart health even though they can’t see that either, so I think it comes down to language and dare I say gender bias from governments toward different health issues

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    You raise such good points, make wonderfully salient connections, and give a lot to reflect upon. Which health conditions cause judgement and disbelief, which ones inspire immediate compassion and concern, and why.

    Grateful for your comment. Lots to digest there. Glad you’re a part of our community!

  • Cappucinno
    5 months ago

    I started to read this article and I thought to myself that “no, I am neither angry or depressed”. I was a little confused because I thought they were the only 2 options. As I continued to read, it all made sense to me. After 40 plus years of dealing with this awful condition, I realize that I have definitely experienced the 5 stages of grief. I do accept this as my life and I am also getting anywhere from 30% to 80% relief from my Aimovig injections since September.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    So glad this article resonated with you. Even more glad to hear that Aimovig is giving you some real relief. What amazing news! Stay in touch!

  • pam bitterman
    5 months ago

    Sad, or more accurately, yes, depressed. A sadness that carries with it the inertia and hopelessness of depression. Mad? mostly at myself because it is still so hard for me to concede that I am limited in any way. I hate surrendering to the ways in which the migraines marginalize me, insist that I can overcome, soldier on, not be someone anyone has to worry about. When I can’t achieve that, then yes, I do get mad – at myself mostly.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hi Pam- really well said. You are not alone in this. It is VERY hard to gain any kind of traction and be productive when being pummeled by random and excruciating pain. We start on some such project and then get hit hard and lose our place. It can be easier to lower the bar of expectations than to repeatedly get thrown from our goals. It’s hard stuff that many of us are navigating. Acceptance comes into play in there somewhere. https://migraine.com/blog/on-acceptance-productivity-and-pain/

    Thank you so much for raising this important point to which many of us can relate. Please stay in touch!

  • Ejc63
    5 months ago

    I think this article is so true for me sadness I am simply not the same person I was with the new CRPG drugs I am doing 100% better but I have yet to trust anything because nothing seems to stick the minute I feel like I can live my life I am back in a world of pain

    I don’t make plans I don’t go out I don’t eat out I don’t travel I never try new things I go to bed the same time I wake up the same time I eat the same foods at the same time every single day I absolutely hate this but it’s the only way to live with this condition

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    So glad to hear that the CGRP blockers are working so well for you! That’s amazing news. Your description of not yet trusting that fact is quite common and something with which many people are struggling. After many years of living with migraine, such a dramatic change in pain pattern will take some getting used to before you will trust.

    Please stay in touch and let us know how you continue to adjust to the ‘new you’. Perhaps we’ll be able to learn from one another. Glad you’re a part of our community.

  • alinac
    1 year ago

    Sad. After three days with a migraine I have no energy to be angry.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    So true that anger takes energy and migraines often leave us too depleted to respond in any active way but with grief. Very good point. Here’s hoping today is a better day. Glad you are a part of our community.

  • litoria76
    1 year ago

    Extremely depressed. I have PTSD, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and anxiety to begin with. I am on day 10 of a severe migraine and find myself wishing I’d have a massive stroke or heart attack and die in my sleep. After all the failed treatments, the neurologist that had given up, the isolation, and the lack of hope after 4-5 years of this, being dead seems favorable to living this hell…

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    1 year ago

    Dear @litoria76,
    Please know we hear your frustration and absolutely understand how much you are suffering. You are never alone in this and know you have an entire community here to support you. I am so sorry to hear that you have been stuck in such a terrible attack. Have you spoken to your doctor about taking a rescue medication? I thought I’d share this article which discusses “How Do You Break a Migraine That Won’t Stop?” in case it provides you with any helpful information. Don’t give up hope for better days! There are over 100+ treatment combinations that can be considered. If you don’t mind me asking, have you seen and/or considered seeing a true headache and migraine specialist? Here is some information on seeing a specialist- https://migraine.com/blog/why-we-ask-about-your-doctor/. We sure understand how difficult it is to stay positive when you continue to have to pick yourself up day after day while living in so much pain, and as we do with all our members is to encourage them to get the support they deserve! Not just from doctors, but in person support groups, therapists, etc. Here is some information on finding support. https://migraine.com/blog/top-places-to-find-support/ Finally, if you are EVER in immediate need for support or considering harming/suicidal thoughts contact the 24-hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

    We are always here to lend an ear & for support.
    Warmly,
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Dana
    1 year ago

    litoria76,
    I have all the issues you mentioned in addition to the migraines we suffer from. And I am also in a horrific cycle right now, since January 24th and my doctor has basically said at this point I just have to ride it out. Seriously, WTF? She said go the ER, how about an inpatient admission for pain management and a DHE infusion to try to break it up. I have so little respect for her and even less faith in her, but I am reapplying for disability after being denied by a judge and an appeals council, so I’m hesitant to switch as I don’t want to appear like a doctor shopper. I often think about suicide, but know I can’t do that, I can’t leave my kids. So I think wouldn’t it be awesome to die in an accident or of a medical problem. Isn’t that awful that we think that way? That death is better than the horrific pain we suffer. I know the Bipolar, depression, anxiety and PTSD compound the situation, but it’s a terrible way to live. Just know you aren’t alone in your feelings.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @danadibs1979 and @litoria76 – I’m so grateful for our community and the way we connect with and support one another through what can be the most intense, demanding and painful times of life. It’s hugely important to remember that we are not alone in this as migraine is so isolating by its very nature.

    I’m so glad Joanna provided information below about how maneuver through the lowest of times in terms of reaching out to existing resources for help if suicide is something that is occurring to you. You are both so right, the severe pain related to migraine is trying and can be terrifying. When we have to face it day after day it can be hard to picture a long future of that reality. In my own experience, it doesn’t take many days in a row of that kind of intensive pain before I can begin feeling really low (and I don’t wrestle with clinical depression or bipolar issues atop having migraine). The condition can make us lose our perspective fast. Thankfully, I’ve also found that when it lifts out of that most intense pain, perspective can return- and with it, a glimpse of hope. When we’re in the weeds it is impossible to do anything but manage the pain (I’m just emerging from a four-day run myself which is why I didn’t respond to your messages in a more timely manner). Something that I’ve found to be helpful is to try capturing my moments of wellness (however fleeting they may be) in a way that I can listen or watch them back when I’m in my lower points. https://migraine.com/video/snapshot-of-wellness-challenge/ . It is crazy making how chronic migraine can rob us of a small window of normalcy – making us forget we are capable of happiness. Sometimes regaining a semblance of our perspective is just a day away. Another thing that I know about us migraineurs, is that we are an incredibly strong and resilient group. The strongest people I’ve ever met, actually. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/wegetknockeddown/ You are not alone- and we are so glad you are a part of our community. Stay in touch. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • BchBm
    1 year ago

    I definitely fall on the mad end of the spectrum. I can channel anger into action and as long as I have something to act on I can stay focused and feel like I’m moving forward even if there are setbacks.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @1pa9ahx – I LOVE that. I wish I could get more in touch with a sense of outrage and anger rather than sadness. My sense is that if I could, like you describe, it might drive me more into action, rather than symbolically licking my wounds at the injustice of it all. Thanks for sharing. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • tjbtaylor9
    1 year ago

    Isn’t it funny how our brains are wired? I’m sure everyone that suffers from Migraine cycles between the five stages of death and dying at some point. It seems that just when I get to the point of acceptance something happens and the cycle starts all over.

    My minister told me that it is normal to be depressed under depressing circumstances. It’s important to know if that is your problem or if you have clinical depression so you can receive the proper treatment. I have the comorbid clinical depression.

    More research, better education about the neurological effects of migraine, research and treatment options are a must for us.

    I’m glad we can pull together here in the meantime and know we are not alone!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @tjbtaylor9 – so well said! With so many of us dealing with migraine, it is a wonder there is not more research being done on our behalf.https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-must-we-do-to-get-attention/ Like you, I’m grateful our community is so thriving to provide support and connection. Glad you are a part of it! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Deb
    1 year ago

    Sad because chronic migraine has stolen so much of my life and altered its transjectory. Frustrated to miss out on most special events. Acceptance that this condition is a fact of my life that, thus far, has changed little despite many types of ongoing treatment. And determined to keep trying to find more effective treatment. Fortunately I have a skilled Migraine Specialist who stays on the forefront of treatment possibilities, so I have hope for better future tomorrows. Acceptance of doing my best with what each day brings, treasuring every painfree moment, and staying hopeful keep me going … ever onward!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @deb– Oh how I love the depth and thoughtfulness of your response. Thank you for sharing this level of reflectivity with the rest of the community. Because the truth is, it is not black and white. The choice is not sad or mad. There is such a rich tapestry of ways to respond to Migraine. And how we feel frequently shifts from day to day, year to year, sometimes minute to minute. I am grateful for your illustration of how you are responding to the complex neurological condition that IS migraine is a complex and open-hearted way. Because you mentioned acceptance more than once, I thought you might be interested in seeing some of our articles on that topic, in case you’re interested- we have several pieces on this important response to Migraine:https://migraine.com/?s=acceptance&submit=Go Thanks again for what you shared. Please stay in touch. Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Joleen1966
    2 years ago

    Most of the time it makes me sad. I do feel like I’m missing out on life sometimes. But I try to think positively. I’ve done everything the specialists have told me to do: quit smoking, quit caffeine, lost 200 pounds, rest….. These all bettered my overall health but not the chronic migraines. My husband and I go out with friends every Friday night. I dance, dance, dance which makes me happy. I try not to let the chronic pain get in my way although it’s always lingering there. As Naomisdtr18 said — it could be worse. I try not to feel sorry for myself. It is hard but I do TRY.

    I’m very happy to have found this site!

  • tjbtaylor9
    1 year ago

    Isn’t it funny how our brains are wired? I’m sure everyone that suffers from Migraine cycles between the five stages of death and dying at some point. It seems that just when I get to the point of acceptance something happens and the cycle starts all over.

    My minister told me that it is normal to be depressed under depressing circumstances. It’s important to know if that is your problem or if you have clinical depression so you can receive the proper treatment.

    More research, better education about the neurological effects of migraine, research and treatment options are a must for us.

    I’m glad we can pull together here in the meantime and know we are not alone!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Joleen1966, Sounds as if you’ve turned your life around for the better because of migraines. I’m sorry it hasn’t had much of an impact on the pain- though it surely has done worlds for your overall health and well being. There is a recent article just published on this topic specifically you might find of interest: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/unexpected-gifts-regimented-life We are very happy you’ve found this site too! So glad you’re a part of our community. Sometimes willing ourselves to feel better can make a difference. I read a study that said if we force ourselves to smile on a regular basis, we eventually will trick our brains into feeling a higher sense of happiness! Stay in touch and thank you for your comment. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Endless Search
    2 years ago

    It is so helpful to hear comments from others who go through the same hell that I do. Yes, this week especially has been hell. When it gets this bad, I get fearful. I get fearful because I feel that I don’t have control over the migraines. No control equates fear. I do have other emotions also throughout the month – resentment that I have had to deal with this debilitating disease for so many years, sadness of course, and anger of course. Lets throw in some disbelief to cover the shock that I continue to feel even after so many years that my own body can betray me on such a frequent basis. This disease has brought me to my knees many times over the past 25 years. I guess that once we are brought to our knee with pain and grieve that that would be a good time to say a pray for ourselves and others. Blessings to all.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator
    2 years ago

    Holly, I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful article I think this is. I fall on the “sad” side for sure with anger sprinkled in. Thanks for giving me something to ponder!

  • Tamara
    2 years ago

    I definitely go to the sadness side of things. I am not an angry person and actually tend to bottle it up and not express it at all. I do have depression as well so it’s really hard when I get a migraine because all the same worthlessness, no motivation and dark thoughts move back in for a few days no matter what medication I’m on. And since I have a migraine flare 1-2 a week each lasting a few days plus mild pain 24/7 …..

    I did have a great psychologist for a month and she got me to make a visual board with positive sayings to help me through. It does help but now I have no one to talk to since she is on maternity level (and gets a year here in Canada).

  • tjbtaylor9
    1 year ago

    And now you have us to support you. Have you talked to a doctor about switching your psych meds? I was on a anti-psychotic with my anti-depressants for a few months when things were really bad. It took awhile but it was like a light switch kicked in on my brain once they started working. Now all I take is regular migraine and psych meds.

    You are not worthless. You are dealing with debilitating complex medical problems that make it difficult to do the things you feel you “should” be doing.

    While your therapist is gone, since you are struggling, you need to find another therapist to talk to. I had to do that and each of them gave me insights that I didn’t have.

    Treat yourself gently. There are no “shoulds” in life Do want you are able to do and ask for help when you need it.

    The best advice I received in therapy was the one minute rule. You can stand anything for one moment. On my bad days, I set a timer for five minutes. During those five minutes, I will do dishes or pick up. When the buzzer rings, I’m done. I know that sounds crazy but it helps keep the dishes done.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @tjbtaylor9 – What a beautiful message of support to offer with some very helpful and specific strategies about how to manage some of the hardest days with migraine. I hope many see your message. Thank you for being such a kind and resourceful member of our community! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator
    2 years ago

    Tamara! It’s good to “see” you! Not to usurp Holly’s place in responding to her commenters – I wanted to comment myself – but I wanted to tell you I also fall on the sad side. Even when I get angry, I don’t kick or scream or decide to increase my advocacy; instead I cry bitterly and then immediately become sad instead. Remember that you ARE worthwhile and I hope your psychologist returns soon. I hope to begin seeing mine again as well. Take care

  • Savta45
    2 years ago

    You know, I think I generally get sad. I try very hard not to cry, because it only makes the pain worse. But, I miss so much of life due to the stupid headaches! I miss events, like concerts & performances, to the extent that we don’t even buy tickets anymore, because there’s a less than 50% chance that I will be well enough to go. But, the things that REALLY upset me, are when we have to cancel out on getting together with family or friends. THAT just makes me CRAZY! So, at those times I guess I do get angry. It’s infuriating, & makes me sad, both at the same time.
    Most of the time, I try to be positive. I have other health issues, which are also restrictive, physically. I have to do the best I can, & focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t. I keep reminding myself that there are people who have worse situations than myself, because I know that is true. And, I pray a lot. Especially when I’m upset. It might not work for others, but it helps me. And, I am grateful for the good things in my life: my husband, my mother (who is still in pretty good health at age 96!) my kids, step kids, grandkids, my dog, my friends, my house, etc. The migraines are horrible, but, my family is ok. I know it sound trite, but, I’d rather deal with this, than some horrible thing with any of my kids, grandkids or step kids. Really. Really.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Naomisdtr18- It sounds like you have an incredible attitude despite the load you are carrying. You raise an important point about the fact that crying is a trigger for so many of us! Letting out the sadness can often lead to more pain. What an unfair conundrum. We have an article on just this very issue you might find interesting: https://migraine.com/blog/crying-as-a-migraine-trigger/

    I’m so glad you are a part of our community. You are most definitely not alone in all that you are juggling – including those mixed feelings. We are right there with you. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

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