Yasmin Coutinho, 23, has suffered from migraines since she was seven, and they have ruined some of the best moments of her life.
“Aged seven I got a migraine during my parents’ wedding. I was the flower girl and it ruined the whole weekend.
“Ever since then I’ve been anxious about attacks in important moments and it’s a vicious cycle, as stress and anxiety increase the likelihood of having a migraine.
“In a way, the migraines are almost psychological, although unfortunately they manifest physically,” she says.
Yasmin sufferers from migraines three to four times a month. Her attacks last around three days and she describes the pain as like being shot in the head.
Invariably she vomits, fluid comes from her nose, and she has sensitivity to light and sound. It’s completely debilitating.
Last year, during her graduation, the fear and anxiety prompted another attack.
“It came on during the night before. I woke up at 04:00 in a lot of pain.
“Four years ago I was finally prescribed medication after years of suffering, so I took those meds, and I was able to get some relief for a couple of hours.
“There are side effects from the meds, but at least I can just about function. I continued to take the meds throughout the day and I was able to complete my graduation, but that worry is always there.
“I travel quite often, and I am always scared that I will get a migraine on a plane.
“Migraines have ruined some of the best moments of my life.”
Yasmin’s experience chimes with the results of a new survey of 690 migraine sufferers in the UK, which showed that more than two-thirds of them live in fear of an attack.
‘I live in fear of losing my sight’
Nichola West, a mother of three from Bath, also suffers from anxiety about getting a migraine, as she actually loses her vision for about 20 to 30 minutes before a headache starts.
“I get migraines with aura, which is where I lose my eyesight, or it gets very blurry. It’s a horrible sensation. The first one I had was when I was pregnant with my youngest son.
“I had to go to hospital, they didn’t know if I was having a stroke.
“I’m always on edge, because if one comes on, I can’t see, the lack of vision lasts for about 20 to 40 minutes. I have three kids, and I have been out shopping with them and it just came on, and I had to get my oldest son, to lead me out of the shop and get me to a bench.
“I’ve had to talk to my children about what to do if I get an attack,” Nichola told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
The survey, conducted for drug company Novartis between September 2017 and February 2018, analysed data from sufferers who had four or more migraine attacks a month.
It found that in the UK, 71% of people have to rely on external support to cope with everyday tasks.
Worldwide, half of the 11,000 migraine sufferers surveyed said they lived in daily fear of an attack occurring.
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Migraines affect around 10 million UK adults and there are over 190,000 migraine attacks per day.
Wendy Thomas, chief executive of the charity the Migraine Trust said: “Migraine and stress are strongly linked.
“Anxiety, excitement and any form of tension and shock may all lead to a migraine attack.”
Novartis has launched a social media campaign #FOMA – or fear of migraine attack to encourage people to talk about the condition.
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