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For Migraine Sufferers, Stigma Adds to Burden
Date:6/25/2010

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- People who suffer from chronic migraine headaches feel more rejected, ridiculed, and ostracized by family, friends, and employers than patients with other neurological troubles, a new study contends.

And the more severe the condition is, the more stigma victims experience, the Philadelphia researchers say.

Lead author Dr. Jung E. Park, a neurological resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, said that people are often skeptical of claims about migraine headaches because they are intangible. "You can't see it, so people don't understand the condition," she said, and co-workers and employers sometimes "think the person is trying to get more time off for something unimportant" because they "don't think the pain and suffering is real."

Many people with migraine experienced "separation, exclusion and rejection in their relationships with family and friends when their condition prevented them from fully engaging in family and social events," the study found.

The greater the stigma, the lower the quality of life for migraine sufferers as measured by absence from work, family events and social life, according to the study, which the authors say is the first to look at migraine and stigma.

The findings are to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS) in Los Angeles.

The study relied on the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness, an instrument developed at Northwestern University, to compare the stigma experienced by chronic migraine sufferers with people who have episodic (non-chronic) migraine, stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease). The scale measures factors such as how often people feel criticized, misunderstood or ostracized for having an illness.

The scores of 246 adult migraine sufferers -- all outpatients
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