When migraine attacks occur while you’re on vacation, it can be downright annoying. If you get a sudden severe migraine headache in the middle of a crowded freeway, it can be terrifying. Some days you can’t even step outside your door without thinking, “What if I have a migraine attack while I’m at work, or at the mall?” Worrying about migraine attacks gives way to migraine-related anxiety attacks, which may spiral into full-blown agoraphobia. How can you control anxiety or agoraphobia in the midst of a migraine?
Why do migraine patients get agoraphobia?
Medically speaking, agoraphobia is “a fear of being outside or otherwise being in a situation from which one either cannot escape or from which escaping would be difficult or humiliating.”
For a migraine sufferer, agoraphobia may evolve from a deep-rooted fear of having a migraine attack and not being prepared for it.
- What if I have an anxiety attack or migraine attack while I’m at a party, and people thing I’m acting crazy or childish?
- What if I feel a migraine coming while I’m enjoying a movie, and I can’t do anything to prevent it?
- What if I end up having to leave early because of migraines? I’ll feel like I let everybody else down.
- How will I explain my migraine medications to strangers without seeming like a drug addict?
Who’s in control here?
In many ways, agoraphobia is like panic attacks gone wild. If panic attacks were tension headaches, then agoraphobia would be a three-alarm weeklong migraine attack complete with stomach-clenching nausea, throbbing headache, intense eye pain, vomiting, shaky nerves, and partial blindness.
Agoraphobia is what happens when you give up on ever controlling anxiety attacks (or migraine attacks) outside your home, or anywhere outside your “safe zone.”
Don’t give the wheel over to fear
One of the keys to preventing anxiety attacks is to find the underlying cause of your fears, and ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of?” Sometimes, clear thinking combined with a bit of old-fashioned honesty is enough to put your mind at ease…or at least throw the blanket on panic.
35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer
Addressing your fears:
What if I have an anxiety attack or migraine attack while I’m at a party, and people thing I’m acting crazy or childish?
Believe it or not, you don’t have a spotlight shining on you. When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, you might feel like everybody’s staring at you, but they’re not. Anxiety tends to magnify emotions like fear, embarrassment, and worry. Although it might feel like World War III inside your head, nobody will know that you’re having an anxiety attack or a migraine attack unless you tell them.
What if I feel a migraine coming while I’m enjoying a movie, and I can’t do anything to prevent it?
Are you concerned that sitting in a movie theater will actually trigger a migraine attack? If you know that sitting in a movie theater, with the bright flashing screen in front of you, larger than life, triggers migraines, then you should absolutely avoid movie theaters, just as you would avoid going to a basketball game.
However, if the silver screen is not one of your migraine triggers, your sole reason for declining a movie date is your fear of the great unknown (will I get a migraine, or won’t I), then all justifications are mute.
Migraine Sufferer to World: It’s not just a Headache, People!
What if I end up having to leave early because of migraines? I’ll feel like I let everybody else down.
What if you had cancer, and you missed an important teacher’s meeting because of chemotherapy? Your health is more important than other people’s expectations. Migraines are a neurological illness, and if you’re up front with the people who matter about your migraines, then they will understand when you are physically unable to perform at your usual standards.
How will I explain my migraine medications to strangers without seeming like a drug addict?
First of all, your migraine therapy is a private matter between you and your headache specialist alone. Assuming that you are using your medication as prescribed, you don’t owe anybody any explanations.
Unfortunately, some people will pass judgment on you regardless, and they might make pointed suggestions about your “drug use” without having any knowledge of your migraine symptoms at all. This is a sad fact for anybody who suffers from chronic pain, whether from migraines or fibromyalgia.
Learn how to pick your battles. You won’t be able to convince every ignoramus that you’re not a junkie. The people you do need to convince are the people in your inner circle- your children, spouse, employer, ER nurses and doctors, pharmacists, neurologists, and anybody else who has influence on your health, your future, and your life.
Please tell us…
Do you suffer from agoraphobia, with or without migraines? Do you agree with any of the statements made here? We welcome your comments.
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Read more about migraines, stress, and anxiety:
Coping with Migraines, Part I: 6 Inspirational Truths
Overcoming Social Isolation in Migraine Disorder
Helping Others Understand Migraines- 8 Communication Tips
Agoraphobia Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Medication on MedicineNet.com
Secondary agoraphobia as a result of migraine: Two cases. [Dutch]