Artists were asked to visually depict the symptoms of an attack.
For anyone who has never suffered a migraine, it's hard understand just how debilitating these headaches can be. But a new collection of art is shedding some light on what they actually feel like.
The paintings and photographs are part of a campaign called "Frames of Mind," which invited artists to depict the varied and painful symptoms of an attack. Their striking works were displayed in a gallery at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in Boston last month.
Scroll down to see a few of the exhibit's most eye-opening pieces. The full "Frames of Mind" collection, a collaboration between Allergan and the American Migraine Foundation, can be viewed here.
This painting by Javier Sotomayor, an artist from Miami, gives a sense of the exhaustion and pain that can come with an attack. Pulsating pain is a classic migraine symptom, and often felt on one side of the head. A survey by the National Headache Foundation found that half of people who get migraines "always" have throbbing on one side.
"When a migraine comes on, my vision is often impacted: whatever I see appears diffused, fragmented, cracked or hyperreal. These often become subjects for my paintings," artist Priya Rama writes on her website. "Some days, I simply have to submit to the ferocity of pain, and go lie in a darkened room, eyes tightly shut."
Colleen Brett's image is another work inspired by the visual symptoms of an attack. Some people who get migraines experience auras, which might appear as flickering spots, lights, or lines, for example. Auras may last anywhere from five minutes to an hour or longer.
Natalie Aiken's piece, which features clippings of words like "insanity" and "anxious" floating above the skull, gives a sense of the emotional symptoms of a migraine, and the very real distress an attack can cause.
This work by Karin Schacht of Charlotte, North Carolina, depicts a blurred view of a landscape. A particular kind of these headaches, called a basilar-type migraine, can cause double vision, as well as dizziness, and even loss of vision. It's not uncommon for people to experience balance problems in the midst of an attack as well.
This piece by artist Nahid Shukrall shows a woman resting her head, eye closed. Doing any sort of activity can make migraine pain even worse, as can exposure to bright light, which is partly why these headaches can be so debilitating. A 2013 study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain concluded that migraines are the seventh most disabling disease in the world.
Another painting by Priya Rama, this one is called "Whirl of the Disco Monkey." Rama says painting her migraines is cathartic for her: "I call the process 'a meditative conversation,'" she writes on her site. "It's the oneness of my mind and body, of inviting something in while letting go of something else. This lets me move forward, accept what is, and not ponder over what ifs."