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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Migraine Sufferers Face Significant Stigma: Study

Equal to that for epilepsy, panic disorder, researchers say, with impact of the disability discounted
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The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Peter Reiner, of the University of British Columbia, also conducted the research.

Some of Shapiro's findings echo those from another study, published earlier this year, in which researchers from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Headache Center found that chronic migraine patients experienced more stigma than did those with epilepsy, while those with episodic migraines experienced less stigma than those with chronic migraines.

The latest finding did not surprise Dr. Randall Berliner, a neurologist and psychiatrist specializing in headache disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"This is a very common problem," said Berliner, who was not involved in the study.

"If you don't have migraines yourself, you may have a hard time understanding just how severe the headaches can be," Berliner explained.

Many people experience non-migraine headaches, he said, and don't consider them disabling. They may pop a pill and feel better, not missing any work. But migraines are different, he said.

Shapiro agreed. Those who haven't had a migraine often have the attitude that those with disabling migraines are simply not managing a problem that nearly everyone has, he said.

Migraines are also typically very unpredictable, Berliner added. "It makes it hard for a migraine sufferer to make plans and keep them," he said. "Some people may interpret that as flakiness or lack of consideration."

To combat that attitude at work, Berliner said, an employee with migraine might have a conversation with his boss, communicating that "It's not my intention to take away your productivity."

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