March 02, 2023
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Migraine is a condition that is often minimized and stigmatized. Language shifts that seem small can have a big impact. Removing the “s” helps recognize the complexity of migraine.
The language we use around migraine is so important. Migraine is a complex neurological disorder, not just a collection of bad headaches. Migraine is a chronic health condition that people live with all of the time. While migraine attacks may flare up, but they aren’t just passing, one-off experiences.
When we refer to migraine as “migraines” we minimize the full experience of living with the condition. This article will cover why the term “migraines” contributes to stigma and language swaps you can make when discussing migraine.
“I get migraines”
“I live with migraine,” or “I have migraine,” or “I’m a person with migraine”
In general, when we discuss other neurological conditions like epilepsy, we understand that the brain is altered or affected in some way. People who have epilepsy have attacks or seizures, due to electrical activity in the brain.
We don’t say that people with epilepsy experience “epilepsies.” The same applies to migraine.
People live with migraine all of the time and when the brain is triggered in a certain way, they have a migraine attack. The same can also be applied to asthma. Those who live with asthma, have asthma all of the time. They have asthmatic attacks, not “asthmas.”
“I have another migraine”
“I’m experiencing a migraine attack”
Another reason migraine is often referred to in the plural is that it’s seen as a symptom. Migraine is not a symptom, it’s a neurological condition. When we hear “migraines,” we may think of “bad headaches” but in reality, head pain is just one of many symptoms that can accompany a migraine episode.
Other symptoms of migraine include:
Many people with migraine also experience symptoms outside of an active attack in what’s known as the interictal phase.
Migraine disease is a complex beast to navigate. Acknowledging that individuals with migraine are managing their condition on a daily basis, and not just during an attack, gives weight to the true nature of the disease.
For those who live with frequent attacks such as high-frequency episodic, or chronic migraine, migraine is very much a part of everyday life. It can interfere with work, school, and social engagements. It can have significant emotional impacts too.
Removing the “s” from migraine and allowing it to be seen as a chronic condition, helps to reduce the stigma.
“I have migraines all the time”
“I live with chronic migraine” or “I have frequent migraine episodes”
When we say “migraines” we inadvertently liken migraine to headaches.
Despite its prevalence, migraine remains underdiagnosed and under-treated. One of the reasons for this is that migraine is often downplayed and not taken seriously. As a result, people often accept migraine as “normal” and something they simply have to learn to live with.
Dropping the “s” in migraines is a simple yet powerful way to reduce the stigma and educate people that migraine is a chronic neurological disorder, not just a headache.
You can make a difference just by changing the way you speak about migraine with your friends, family, colleagues, healthcare professionals, and even with strangers online.
It can take a bit of time to adjust but using conscious language can be an empowering way to educate others about the true nature of migraine disease.
Medically reviewed on March 02, 2023
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