A Celebrity in Our Midst: Marcia Cross & Migraine

Desperate Housewives actor Marcia Cross is part of our club. A migraineur since she was a teenager, Ms. Cross has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (maker of Topamax and Imitrex) to spread the word that migraine isn’t “just a headache.”

The headache movement is gaining momentum! Someday soon society — including health care providers — will understand the debility that headache disorders cause. They have to. We’ve got a celebrity from a massively popular TV show as our spokesperson.

Sharing the stories of non-famous headache sufferers is also important. GSK and iVillage are sponsoring the My-graine Story contest for patients to do just that. There are prizes for the top entries, including a trip to meet Marcia Cross. More important is that participants can release their stories for future use by GSK or iVillage, which will our experiences even more real to non-sufferers. Entries will be accepted until January 31.

A recent Seattle Times story takes a deeper look at what Ms. Cross has to say about her struggles. But I warn you that the article contains an inaccurate stereotype of migraineurs that may make you as angry as it does me.

“Of the more than 28 million Americans who suffer from migraines, three times more women than men are affected — and tightly wound, control-freak Bree would seem to be a ready candidate.”

Does this mean that three times as many women are more high-strung than men? Or that migraineurs are tightly wound control-freaks? The theory of the “migraine personality” has been studied for years, but isn’t widely accepted. My favorite headache resource, Migraine: The Complete Guide, published by the American Council for Headache Education debunks the myth:

“Researchers who have intensively studied the personality makeups of migraineurs have found no evidence of a ‘migraine personality.'”

“Some migraineurs who display these personality traits may have developed them as a reaction to their illness. They may feel a strong need to keep order around them because they never know when their lives will be disrupted by a migraine attack.”

“Some experts suggest that this myth may be perpetuated by physicians who resent the demands of patients who illnesses they can’t successfully treat.” (Page 21)

Finding links for this post, I learned that Ms. Cross recently completed her clinical training to earn a master’s degree in psychology. How cool is that?

[Correction: Ortho-McNeil, not GSK, makes Topamax]