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Comments on A “Migraine Personality”?

I feel terrible today, but what kind of blogger would I be if I left you without something to read?

Yesterday’s post on whether there’s a migraine personality has raised your ire and gotten many fabulous comments. Some longtime readers, including my favorite mother-in-law, were even prompted to delurk.

I recommend reading all the comments, but here’s a sample:

Heather:
If they applied such logic to any other disease, they would realize how foolish they are being!

Sue:
Well, my migraines only started after I had brain surgery and I have no aura. I sort of fit the profile they describe. So, are they now going to tell ME that my migraines are psycological and not because of the 3 x 6 cm area removed from my brain?

M:
I prefer to think of it as the fact that some people are naturally more susceptible to pain. Or that some people just naturally have more pain. Some people get cancer, some don’t. Some people have a lot of pain, some don’t.

Thanks to everyone who has left a comment on the post. I love reading about your experiences and thoughts. I know it helps other readers too.

To the rest of you, I’d love to have your input on this or any post. Whatever it is that you have to say is valuable, whether you have headaches or not. I won’t be offended if you want to remain anonymous by making up a name and e-mail address!

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A “Migraine Personality”?

“Patients suffering from migraine [without aura] show more depressive symptoms, difficult anger management with a tendency to hypercontrol, and a distinctive personality profile with high harm avoidance, high persistence and low self-directedness.. . . .

“The results suggest that the personality traits and psychosomatic
mechanisms of migraine patients
may make them vulnerable to stress and
less skilled in coping with pain.”

Ack! Just the news migraineurs need when they’re trying to convince themselves and others that their pain is real. Now people who give the unsolicited advice that our headaches will go away if we’d just resolve our “issues” and relax have more ammunition.

Maybe it’s because I don’t want people with headache to be further stigmatized or stereotyped, but I have a hard time believing there’s a migraine personality. Of the traits listed in the study, I have depressive symptoms, high persistence and some harm avoidance. I’ve become much calmer and more laid back in recent years, but my headaches persist.

Like with depression, the chicken or egg question has to be considered. I’m hoping that further research will contradict these findings.

Do you think there’s a migraine personality and, if so, do you have that personality?

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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]