What Does A Migraine Feel Like To Sufferers and Volunteers?

Excedrin® is bringing migraine sufferers closer together with their loved ones using augmented reality.

It’s estimated that 10% of the population suffers from migraines (1), putting it in the top 20 of the world’s most debilitating conditions (1).

But even with those large numbers, migraine sufferers often feel misunderstood, commiserating with one another with this sentiment: If you’re not a sufferer yourself, you simply can’t understand what a migraine’s like.

This lack of understanding can even come from those who love and support migraine sufferers the most — partners, parents, and friends.

That’s why Excedrin® created the world’s first migraine simulator. Using augmented reality, the simulator is able to create an immersive experience to show non-sufferers what a migraine feels like, including symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, disorientation, and aura.

We offered real-life sufferers the opportunity to try the migraine simulator with a colleague, family member or friend who was not a sufferer. The power of the technology led to some emotional results.

Before you watch the videos, learn a little bit more about each of our participants.

Jessica & Dan

Like many sufferers, Jessica feels misunderstood: “People don’t understand what migraines feel like because the symptoms are also hard to imitate,” she says. Jessica suffers from some of the condition’s most common symptoms, including aura and sensitivity to light and sound, which she describes as “Like ambulance sirens going off in your head, but 1, 000 decibels louder.”

Dan, Jessica’s boyfriend, volunteered for The Migraine Experience because “it’s heartbreaking to see her in so much pain.” But Dan feels some doubt about the condition as well — “I think it’s just a much stronger headache.” And there’s frustration there, too: “When the world stops for her, it stops for me.”

Jessica thinks the experience will draw them closer to a mutual understanding. “He’ll really empathize, so the next time I get one, there won’t be any rolling of the eyes.”

See more of Jessica & Dan’s story.

Elisabeth & Catherine

For Elisabeth, a sufferer of severe migraines since childhood, missing out on things is a big part of her migraine story. “I have to miss school a lot — which is unfortunate, because I want to be in school, I want to participate in social events, I want to be with friends. What is difficult is that even if you want to be there, you can’t be there” because of the migraines, she says.

Elisabeth’s mother, Catherine, feels for her daughter: “Everyone else just gets up and deals with normal stressors. But she gets up in the morning and if a migraine hits, she’s just put on the sidelines and can’t do anything.” That’s why Catherine is passionate about seeing what her daughter’s migraine symptoms look like. “It’s just something a parent wants — to understand what their child goes through.”

See more of Elisabeth & Catherine’s story.

Tiffany & Micaella

There’s only one thing that’s come between Tiffany and her close friend Micaella: Tiffany’s migraines. On Micaella’s birthday, Tiffany suffered a migraine attack and had to miss their big plans. Says Tiffany: “I have no control over the migraines. Trust me, I’d rather be anywhere than sitting here crying on my couch because I’m in so much pain. But I think she thought I was lying.” Says Micaella: “I just thought, why can’t she just get rid of this ‘migraine’ that she’s having and come have a great time?” But ultimately this moment inspired Micaella’s willingness to be part of The Migraine Experience. “It made me want to learn more about what she goes through,” she says. After seeing Tiffany’s migraine, Micaella says, “I’d really understand why you’d cancel on something so important.”

See more of Tiffany and Micaella’s story.

Emily & Penny Maria

Sufferer Emily experiences a number of triggers at work, including the bright office lights, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, and the stress of deadlines. But what’s really tough is the dismissive attitude of co-workers. “They think ‘oh you’re just saying that so you can step out of a meeting or call in sick.’ I wish people were more sympathetic to the pain,” she says.

Emily’s co-worker, Penny Maria, was first doubtful of Emily’s migraines, a feeling she still recognizes in their fellow co-workers: “I’ve heard a few people say things, like ‘oh, her head is hurting again, hmmm.’” But that’s the reason Penny Maria signed up for The Migraine Experience. “By going through this experience, I hope that I will understand the pain you go through, and hopefully I’ll be able to communicate that to everyone else at work. I want to be there to represent you accurately.”

See more of Emily and Penny Maria’s story.

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