After all we’ve learned about the biology of migraine in the past 15 years or so, you’d think that more people would realize the seriousness of this disabling disease. Still, a recent study suggests that there is still a stigma attached to people with migraine – and an even worse stigma if you have chronic migraine.
The research took place at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia, USA. It was led by Dr. Jung E. Park. Park explains why she was interesting in this research: "Many diseases like HIV, mental illness, and cancer can be highly stigmatizing, resulting in depression, anxiety, decreased quality of life, and disruption of social relationships. Our goal was to understand how stigma attaches to migraine."
The research team used a recently developed tool known as the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness (SSCI). This allowed them to compare the stigma of migraine with the stigma of other types of illness.
The study found that those with migraine suffered from a stigma similar to the stigma of such illnesses as stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s disease. But the surprise came when they looked at chronic migraine.
The stigma associated with chronic migraine was significantly higher – much higher than the stigma of migraine itself or any other of the illnesses just mentioned.
The researchers were also suprised that there wasn’t a strong connection between stigma and quality of life or disability. For example, someone more disabled was not stigmatized much more or less than someone less disabled.
The study was presented at the American Headache Society’s 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting last month. The president of the AHS, Dr. David Dodick, notes: "It is as important to understand the impact of migraine on patient quality of life as it is to understand its medical and physiological impact. Our hope is that work like this will ultimately aid in the development of public health strategies to combat the stigmatizing effects of migraine."
We can all hope. The other issue is, as Dr. Park notes, stigma can have a negative effect on the patient – depression and anxiety can increase, for example. And if this stigma reaches into the medical community (as we know it does), then it can drastically impact the quality of treatment a migraine patient gets.
Read more about the study here: Stigma of migraine is significant; worse for those with chronic migraine