Why Migraine Sufferers Face Social Stigma

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Social stigmas of chronic migraines and epilepsy are similar.Suffering migraine headaches constantly is bad enough. But now we find news that these people suffer social stigma due to their disease. This can disrupt many aspects of life, not the least of which is mental health.

The breakthrough study is one of the first to examine the social cost of suffering migraines, which are not only debilitating for the patient, but also misunderstood by everyone. Social stigma occurs when society disapproves of a person, because they are different in some way. If someone has eczema on her face, they could face this stigma. It can happen in unseen ways as well, like those with bad headaches. Such a stigma can hurt personal relationships, work prospects, and a person’s state of mind.

The study found that chronic migraines are worse than epilepsy for having an impact on a person’s working life. The stigma is worse, because the people with headaches are far more disabled. What people often forget is that people with migraines can suffer severe headaches every single day. It can affect a person’s life to a tremendous degree—a degree nearly impossible for others to understand.

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Researchers surveyed 123 “episodic” migraine patients, 123 “chronic” migraine patients, and 62 epilepsy patients. Epilepsy was used for comparison, as it is a disease well-known for the stigma associated with it. The study showed that patients with chronic migraine had higher scores on the stigma scale than either episodic migraine or epilepsy patients.

Chronic migraines, not surprisingly, took a great toll on a person’s ability to work. Many of the participants required bed rest during the day for hours at a time, many times per month. Chronic means more than 14 migraines a month.

In fact, the treatment of migraines suffers from stigma itself. Migraines are often considered a minor health problem, just like a headache. But an amazing number of migraine patients cannot hold a job due to the disease. Many more suffer severe headaches nearly every day. This leads to severe depression and curtailed quality of life.

It’s time for everyone to view chronic migraines for what they are: an unfair, difficult disease to live with, one that, unfortunately, other people have to take a person’s word for.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
Why Migraine Sufferers Face Social Stigma
Young, W., et al., “The Stigma of Migraine,” PLoS ONE 2013; 8(1): e54074.

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