Social Stigma increases the burden of living with #Migraine. #MHAM
Medical professionals

A social stigma can be the result upon a person or group from a perception or attribute, rightly or wrongly, of mental illness, physical disabilities, diseases, illegitimacy, sexual orientation, gender identity, skin color, nationality, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), or criminality. nobullying



Social stigma can be profound with migraines. There are a lot of beliefs out there about migraines that still persist today. My personal favorite is that intelligent people get migraines… I can handle that one. My least favorite is that we are just lazy. Or it is just that we can’t handle stress. Or that it is a woman’s disease because we can’t handle stress. Or that we can’t cope with life well. People literally think those things. That we are lazy, stressed out women that just can’t cope with life… so we get ‘migraines’.

Another is that we lie about it. Turns out lying about having a migraine to call in sick when you are not is a thing. People use it as an excuse because it is something that would knock you out one day, but you’d be fine the next. The perfect effing excuse they think. So when you call in with a migraine they think ‘oh a “migraine”‘

For others it is the whole ‘It is just a headache’. Well, if you ever get one you will tell the difference real fast.

I used to get stigma of ‘Your fine one day, then sick another’ Well no, I had a slightly treated migraine I could barely tolerate one day and an acute untreatable migraine another.

Then I get but your smiling and laughing! You can’t be in that much pain. I actually can. Humor is my coping mechanism.

Shapiro polled 765 people online. All were U.S. residents, with an average age of 28. When presented with vignettes that described people with asthma, migraine, panic attack and epilepsy, the survey participants answered questions on a well-known test used to assess stigma towards illness.

The questionnaire, Shapiro explained, “just provides insight into how someone wants to be associated with someone else.” For instance, respondents told how likely they were to want to work with someone with one of the four conditions, and how comfortable they would be inviting them to a dinner party.

The lowest stigma score was for those with asthma. “What we found was the score for migraine versus epilepsy versus panic attack were quite close together and quite similar,” Shapiro said. WebMD


Because of this stigmas, people do not comprehend chronic migraines. How can someone have migraines more than 15 a month? How is it more than a headache? How can you Not Work with ‘just’ migraines. The stigma with co-workers is often that they do not want a co-worker with migraines. One who uses ‘excuses’ to miss days.

I want to a work training course in Toronto once and I heard some people talking about a co-worker with migraines in the most disparaging of ways. Claiming she had migraines ‘All the time’, but could work some days and not others. And how was it even possible to have migraines like that anyway. And who could even work with a migraine, that couldn’t be true. They said she was lazy and complaining, just trying to get out of work.

So I said to them that I had chronic migraines, daily. That it is, in fact, possible to have them all the time, because I do have them all the time. And that with medication you can decrease the intensity of some so you range in intensities. So sometimes I am a 9 and I can’t come to work. And sometimes I am a 7 and I can. I said there are tons of medications I have to be on, but I struggle to work and I miss too many days (I was full time at the time). They asked me other questions about how she was and if that was normal and I fielded every one of them. Sounded like they despised her because her migraines were not what they expected migraines to be Like. Not rare enough. Not stay at home hide under the covers migraines that happen occasionally and are decently easy to treat. I said to them they are no longer easy to treat when they get chronic and we no longer have the choice to sleep off every migraine once they are chronic… just the epic pain level ones where we cannot function are the ones we stay home for. We Have to function with other ones.

I have faced a lot of workplace stigma as well. Bosses that think I should be able to just push through the pain. If I came in one day with a migraine, I should be able to on another day. That if I am smiling I must not be in much pain, but we work in customer service so I developed a smile through the pain approach for a reason. That when I lost weight I must be feeling better. When I came off a leave of absence my boss assumed I was cured, that wasn’t a funny one at all.

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