Do You Have a Migraine Personality?



Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes hours spent in darkened rooms. If you suffer from migraines then you’re all too familiar with these symptoms which may affect you infrequently or as often as several times each week.

Migraines affect men, women and children, but not equally. Migraines are three times more common among women than men – but it’s not just the numbers that are  different based on gender, it’s also how women are perceived and treated.

Joining me on Natural MD Radio is Joanna Kempner, PhD., an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, doing important research on gender politics and pain – specifically, the striking difference between how men and women with migraines are viewed by doctors.

In this episode we explore the emergence of the idea of a migraine personality in the mid-20th century that saw migraines in men as an affliction of high-pressured intellectuals, but which saw women with migraines as uptight neurotics and hysterics. And how this historical concept created a disparity in pain treatment for women – especially for women of color in the United States – that persists today.

We also talk about the societal factors that have led many women to feel guilty for speaking up about their pain, whether it be chronic pain caused by a condition like migraine or pain after childbirth, for example. We share the ways that the stigma of pain affects pain research and the implications that this has for the current and future treatment of women’s pain.

Listen to learn why these disparities in pain treatment still exist and find out how we can combat them in our own lives.

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Show Notes

  • The historical context for the diagnosis previously called ‘hysteria’
  • The stigma women who have migraines might experience
  • How people who suffer from migraines take on stereotypes
  • What happens when a migraine is not recognized as a disability
  • How the pharmaceutical industry plays on women’s guilt
  • Why the medical community so often disbelieve women
  • The patient-blaming language of medication overuse
  • The irrationality of the opioid crisis
  • How and why women of color women remain invisible in medical research and have their pain treated differently

Links from the Show

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