Editor’s Note: Real World Health Care is pleased to close out our 2019 series on migraine by sharing an article originally published by the National Headache Foundation. Here, they share advice for helping patients respond to caregivers and others when faced with stigma associated with migraine disease. You can read the original article here, and learn more about migraines from the National Headache Foundation blog.
It can be difficult to explain the excruciating pain of a migraine to those who don’t experience it. In fact, there’s a stigma attached to this disorder stemming from a lack of knowledge on the severity of symptoms associated with migraine and headache. Migraine is not just a headache, and the attack may include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Anyone who experiences migraine attacks has surely been frustrated with well-meaning friends and family offering dismissive advice that’s not only unhelpful but can make the situation worse.
We took to social media to discover the most common comments and advice that people with migraine hear when they discuss their condition. We compiled the 10 most common in a list below.
- Take some Advil
- Did you take something?
- Have you been drinking enough water?
- You’ve got another headache?
- I get bad headaches too.
- It’s just a headache.
- I have some Tylenol if you want it.
- Just push through it!
- I think you just want an excuse.
Chances are, you’ve heard one or more of these pieces of “advice” at some point in your life. One comment in particular—“It’s just a headache”—encapsulates the popular misconception about a disorder that affects around 40 million Americans. It’s frustrating to feel that no one understands what you’re going through, and some, out of their own lack of knowledge, may even think you’re faking symptoms.
In order to demystify the stigma surrounding migraine disease, here are a few steps you can take to educate those around you about this debilitating neurological disorder.
Explain the Migraine Triggers
While migraine triggers differ from person to person, there are a few common causes that will bring about symptoms in many sufferers. For example, a naturally-occurring compound called Tyramine—often found in aged, smoked or cured meats and vegetables—has been found to be a major trigger of migraine attacks. If friends, family and coworkers have a better understanding of your migraine triggers, they’re more likely to notice when you’re experiencing an attack and can respond accordingly.
Provide Migraine Resources
Of course, you don’t need to justify your condition to everyone with whom you interact, but migraine symptoms can cause a strain on certain close relationships. For example, a boss or supervisor doubting the severity of your condition may cause you additional stress, which can negatively impact work performance or compound the pain. Fortunately, the National Headache Foundation has an abundance of resources that help skeptics and allies alike get a better understanding of migraine and headache. Sharing these informative sources with those closest to you can help alleviate the burden of constantly explaining your condition.
Seek Migraine Treatment from a Headache Specialist
Understanding the specifics of your condition makes it far easier to explain them to others. Seek out a headache specialist to receive an appropriate diagnosis. The health care practitioner will likely diagnose you based on your medical history, symptoms and a physical and neurological examination. This could include blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan. (It is critical to visit a medical professional who specializes in headache and migraine, as they will be able to best diagnose and treat the pain.)
There will always be those who doubt the severity of migraine symptoms. However, by educating yourself and those around you, you can help tear down the stigma associated with migraine disease and, in the process, make living with migraine attacks a bit easier.