The stigma of migraine

Do you ever get the niggling feeling that co-workers and even family members can tend to discount the true impact of migraine on your life?

Do you cringe at the prospect of having to call in sick yet again with a ‘headache’ that confines you to bed? Or does it worry you that you may have to cancel plans last minute?

The stigma of migraine

Dr Robert Shapiro, a professor of neurological sciences at the University Of Vermont College Of Medicine will present research at the International Headache Congress in Boston on June 30th 2013 supporting what we have long suspected.

“We were able to validate that people who have migraine are not mistaken that they feel they are stigmatised. We have found those perceptions are well-grounded, and that the stigma that people with migraine experience is of a similar magnitude to the stigma people with epilepsy and panic attack experience. The general attitude is that migraine is not a serious or valid condition,” he said.

Shapiro polled 765 people online. All were US residents, with an average age of 28. When presented with vignettes that described people with asthma, migraine, panic attack and epilepsy, the survey participants answered questions on a well-known test used to assess stigma towards illness.

Dr Shapiro explained that the questionnaire just provides insight into how someone wants to be associated with someone else. For instance, respondents told how likely they were to want to work with someone with one of the four conditions, and how comfortable they would be inviting them to a dinner party.

The lowest stigma score was for those with asthma. “What we found was the score for migraine versus epilepsy versus panic attack were quite close together and quite similar,” Shapiro said.

Many people experience non-migraine headaches and don’t consider them disabling. They may pop a pill and feel better, not missing any work. But migraines are different, he said.

And don’t we know it!

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