Taboo Symptoms of Migraine: Anger

We don’t like to acknowledge anger as one of the symptoms of migraine but it is. One that is often taboo and hard to deal with.

Plus anger and rage is something that is best contained no matter what – right? Right! No one should see our dark side. Keep reading for three tips on how to be proactive instead of reactive.

The most common symptoms of migraine are: blurred vision, cold hands and feet, hot flushes, slurred speech, being over sensitive to smells and noise, tiredness and fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, increased pulse, runny nose, and watering eyes.

Rarely will you see anger listed.

But I can assure you that if you get chronic migraine headaches, you will experience a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect! One minute you are your old self, and a few minutes later everything is irritating you. Sometimes you will find yourself yelling, ranting and raving about the injustices of being sick. Ok - that might just be me. But you get the picture.

Learning some anger management skills, especially for us migraine sufferers, is fundamental for finding a way to express ourselves appropriately and deal with some of the symptoms of migraine.

Life brings us great challenges and it is impossible not to get angry in some cases, at some people, or at some situations - like constant or repetitive pain and migraines - sometimes.

Symptoms of Migraine: Anger

"Anyone can become angry – that is so easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not so easy”.

- By Aristotle

The first time I read about emotions being an early warning signal was in Migraines for Dummies where the authors refer to “some migraine sufferers experience a personality switcheroo, showing three (or thirty) faces of Eve, and exhibiting raw and rugged personality traits”.

They mention feeling irritable and having an evil twin and make a point of telling the reader to give the migraine sufferer space and know that it will end when the headache ends.

So you may not like the way you feel so emotional before, during and after your migraine episode. You may not like the way you act either. You may experience agitation, impatience, irritability, edginess, and well the list goes on.

My advice is to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to have a TIME OUT away from others so you don’t need to show them your Jekyll and Hyde acts.

OK - and read some more here about Anger Management for Migraines: 6 Tips to Remember.

1. Form Healthy Boundaries

Forming healthy boundaries will look like this:

a) You can say no without experiencing the weight of guilt.

b) You act on your feelings when you need to. For example saying – "I’m not sure. I will have to get back to you on that."

c) You are able to do what you need to do independent of the suggestions of others.

d) You no longer take the blame for every problem in your relationships and friendships.

e) You realise you are not responsible for others actions.

f) You realise it is not your job to make others happy or make relationships work.

g) You stop taking things personally. You recognise that an others behaviour is more based on their past history than something lacking in you.

h) You are able to maintain friendships even when you have a disagreement.

i) You feel comfortable and maintain inner peace in both receiving and giving.

See Issue #4 of our monthly e-zine called Surviving Chronic Migraine for more examples of setting boundaries.

I recommend learning to form healthy boundaries. They can be added to our anger management strategy to help us articulate what we need and let others know our limitations. Also, learning that this is one of your symptoms of migraine will help you to change it.

My husband actually noticed it long before I read about it. He would just say during my hissy fit, "hey, I think you are getting a migraine again." It turned out, he was almost always right. For more help with this I suggest professional counseling.

2. Aggressive, Passive, and Assertive Communication Styles

Symptoms of Migraine: Anger Management for Couples

There is a huge amount of information around anger management for women and men. For now, I will just mention the basics.

An aggressive communication style is when you express your opinion in a way that violates, humiliates, offends or insults the rights of others. Sarcasm and insults are good examples. The need to be right, the need to win that force the other person to be wrong or loose is a basic power struggle.

The goal is to win meaning someone has to lose.

This is what I want and what you want is just not important.

Non-assertive or passive communication style is when you give in to others without any regard for yourself. You give in to other people’s demands, or ideas and opinions whilst failing to recognize what you feel or what your own ideas or opinions are.

In a way you are permitting those around you to infringe on you by failing to express your honest feelings, thoughts and beliefs. If you then try to express your feelings in a fearful apologetic or self effacing manger, you may find that others disregard them. Your underlying message received is I don’t count.

The goal is to avoid conflict at all costs.

What I want doesn’t count.

An assertive communication style involves expressing your thoughts and beliefs in appropriate ways that do not dominate or degrade others. Standing up for yourself with the respect and consideration of the other person.

The goal is communication, respect, fair play, and compromise when the needs and rights conflict.

This is what I need, what do you need? Let’s see if we can find something in the middle that works for us both.

Changing our style of communication can add to our anger management strategy and help us learn to express ourselves appropriately instead of just getting angry. We need to learn more skills if anger is one of our early warning symptoms of migraine attacks.

3. Be Proactive Not Reactive

We all know with migraines that triggers cause a reaction. Well so do our emotions get triggered and we react. The instinct to fly off the handle is innate (well in my family it is). But there are other options when anger becomes one of your more regular symptoms of migraine.

When you are triggered you can take a deep breath and a time out if you need and you can then to choose to respond.

Pause - take a deep breath - and step away from the irritant!

When you first feel the physical expression that is your anger, and everyone is different to some degree, it’s time to take care of yourself. So you might feel: your heart pounding, neck tension, a knot in your stomach, shaking or sweating. These are signals for your body to kick into fight or flight.

This is the time to pause. Take a few deep breaths and go somewhere to regroup your thoughts to see what it is that you are actually angry about, or if it feels like a migraine trigger.

This is one of the harder symptoms of migraine to detect because its just hard to tell that you are not just plain angry at something. 

Click on this link underlined to print out an anger worksheet to give you more ideas on dealing with anger and ways to manage it better. It suggests a few different ways to deal with your anger.

More Help For Anger Symptoms of Migraine

For more help with anger and migraines, besides taking your medications early, I can recommend all of these, they work for me.

Reading new things can give you options. And counselling was one of the best things I have ever done, and it even evolved into me becoming a professional counselor

How Do You Deal With It?

How do you deal best with the anger that comes up around your migraines? Please share with me on coping with migraine. Sharing helps all of us with these challenging symptoms of migraine.

Until next time, be well and be pain free,



1. Stafford, D. and Shoquist, J. MD. (2003) Migraines for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc: New York.
2. Halford, W.K. And Markman, H.J. (ed.) (1997) Clinical Handbook of Marriage and Couples Intervention. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.: England.
3. Heyman, R and Neidig, P. (Chapter 23) Physical Aggression Couples Treatment. In Halford, W.K. And Markman, H.J. (ed.) (1997) Clinical Handbook of Marriage and Couples Intervention. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.: England.

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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?