Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeHealthThe Negative Perception of Chronic Migraine

The Negative Perception of Chronic Migraine

By Dawn Buse, PhD, as told to Keri Wiginton

Headache Stigma

Headache disorders, including migraine, consistently rank among the leading causes of disability worldwide, especially for those ages 15-49. That’s a big deal. Yet people often don’t think of migraine as a significant disease. It’s often minimized and ignored.

Underrecognized Burdens of Migraine

Migraine is incredibly burdensome. But less than half of people with the disease talk to their doctors about it. And only 5% of people with chronic migraine have gotten the proper diagnosis and preventive care.

Stigmatization of Migraine

Stigma might be partly to blame. There are theories about why migraine is so stigmatized. One reason is that your symptoms are mostly hidden. People don’t see a cast on your arm. You’re not using a crutch; you’re not bleeding. Another reason is that, while migraine is an invisible illness, it affects people around you. You may need to withdraw to a dark room, take your medication, and sleep for a while. Your family, co-workers, or friends might have to pick up the slack. Stigma might stem from people who may unfairly think you’re lazy or are using migraine to get out of responsibilities.

Common Misconceptions About Migraine

And people often confuse migraine with other kinds of headaches. They may wonder why you can’t just take a pill from the drugstore and get over it. But it’s more than “just a headache.” It can last for days and has a long list of symptoms.

Examples include extreme sensitivity to light, overpowering smells, and unpredictable attacks. Reframe Ideas Around Migraine

Refocus & Realign with Migraine

Chronic migraine is when you have, on average, 15 or more headache days a month. At minimum, that’s a headache every other day. Some people have continuous head pain. This may affect your engagement at work, school, or in your relationships, but it’s important to know you have a disease that’s not your fault. Health professionals can also normalize your experience and let you know you’re not alone.

Awareness & Transparency in Migraine Discussion

It’s Important to Be Honest. You may not want to bring attention to yourself or burden others. But people without migraine may not have any idea how serious your condition is unless you tell them. Have open discussions with friends and family to avoid misunderstanding and receive support.

Improving Work Policies for Migraine

Thanks to structural stigma, people with headache disorders sometimes have a hard time getting the legal accommodations they’re entitled to. However, migraine is a health condition that’s protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ask your doctor to write up a short letter about your condition to explain what accommodations you need in the workplace. Discuss your condition with your human resources department and co-workers.

Effective Communication with Your Doctor

You need to share all of your symptoms with your doctor. Let your doctor put the puzzle pieces together to help you figure out what’s going on and find the best treatment for you.

Seeking Support for Migraine

Find Migraine Support Groups. It can be liberating to openly share your ideas, feelings, and frustrations with people who know what you’re going through. Look for support through online migraine communities, social media, or advocacy groups and keep your focus on the future.

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