While migraines themselves are often painful and disruptive to a person’s life, many who suffer from migraines also suffer from the stigmatization of the disease, which can lead to a discrediting of the illness, discrimination, family issues, and more. The stigmatization of migraine can also adversely affect interpersonal relationships and employment status, which can become internalized by the affected individual, making it difficult for him or her to maintain or seek new relationships.
Measuring Stigma in Migraine Patients
To measure the severity of stigma in those with migraine, the Stigma Scale for Chronic Migraine (SSCI) was used. This scale consists of 24 questions that ask participants about internalized stigma and enacted stigma from the type of migraine they experience, in comparison to other neurological conditions as well. Results were scored on a scale, with higher scores correlating with greater stigmatization. Based on the results of the SSCI, patients with chronic migraine were significantly more stigmatized than those with episodic migraine or epilepsy. Notably, patients in this study with chronic migraine had the highest levels of work-related disability, and that the severity of stigmatization increased with the number of work absences. According to the results of the SSCI, factors that did not impact stigma levels in migraine patients included gender, age, income and education (Young, 2018).
Family, Work, and Research
Stigmatization of migraine is prevalent in various aspects of a patient’s life, including family and work. In one study examining the stigma of migraine with family, less participation was reported in family events and activities in at least half of the migraine patients in the study. Those with higher frequency chronic migraines in the study felt that their spouses did not believe them about their headaches. In a 2016 survey by a medical insurer, only 22% of employers felt that migraines were serious enough to warrant an absence from work, which is lower than that for people with depression, stress, anxiety, flu, or the common cold (Davidson, 2018). This can bring about a negative impression towards employees with migraine, which can have consequences for continued employment at a given job (Young, 2018).
Even though migraine is a highly prevalent condition, research funding for the disorder at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is among the lowest relative to other major health conditions. The risks of low funding towards migraine may slow progress towards new treatments, in addition to potentially discouraging future neurologists from specializing in migraine.
Fighting the Migraine Stigma with Advocacy
To effectively combat the stigma of migraine, it is of key importance that people actively get engaged in advocating for greater education and awareness of the disorder. In turn, more research funding would likely translate to a greater number of doctors who specialize in migraines, as well an increase in the number of treatment of options and a reduction in the stigmatization of the disease. Additionally, by speaking out and utilizing platforms such as social media, the public at large would have a greater understanding of how serious this condition is.
Interested in learning more about Migraine research? Please call 561-296-3820. The Premiere Research Institute in West Palm Beach regularly conducts clinical research studies in the field of Migraines. To find out more about these studies click here or sign up for their newsletter to keep informed about the newest treatments, articles, and research that are being conducted in the field of Migraines.
Davidson L. The best excuses for calling in sick, according to your boss. Available at: telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/11/the-best-excuses-for-calling-in-sick-according-to-your-boss/. Accessed January 16, 2018.
Young, W. B. (2018). The Stigma of Migraine. Practical Neurology, 23-26.