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Migraine trolls

Migraine trolls

Stigma is all too familiar to each of us. As advocates, our passion is to educate patients and the general public. We believe that education is the best way to dispel the myths that perpetuate stigma.  Most people don’t really mean to be insensitive about Migraine. They just don’t know the facts. Once we have the opportunity to educate them, many become allies.

Unfortunately, all too soon we all learn that not every person or situation is deserving of the effort and time we invest trying to educate and enlighten them. Frankly sometimes people who stigmatize Migraine are unredeemable trolls.  These people have already decided what they think. No amount of education will change their mind because they truly believe what they are saying. They won’t accept that their opinions are based on outdated or inaccurate information.

It is important that we recognize a Migraine Troll when they show up because they can’t be rehabilitated. Your efforts will never get them to see Migraine or migraineurs accurately. By learning to recognize a Migraine Troll, you can save yourself a lot of stress and hassle.

Here are some examples of Migraine Trolls I’ve encountered over the years:

The Magician

At first the Magician appears to be one of the good guys. He or she approaches you with gentle promises of relief, offering to “help those headaches.” Novice migraineurs have been taken in by the seductive promise of a cure. The longer the Magician talks, the more he gives himself away. The Magician naively believes he can cure migraine. Triggers are seen as causes and outdated information is all the Magician has to offer. When the Magician is challenged, that’s when the troll comes out. If the Magician is in a position of authority, that position is used to insist the migraineur “Do things my way.” In other situations, the Magician may use guilt trips or accuse you of “not really trying”.

Conspiracy Nut

This troll is convinced that “big pharma” is in cahoots with medical schools and doctors to “keep everyone sick.” Heaven forbid that Topamax really help you, because this troll will tear you to pieces for “selling your soul”. There’s no way to convince this troll that Migraine is a genetic neurological disease in need of serious research funding.  If you aren’t willing to abandon all pharmaceutical treatments, this troll can turn on you in an instant.

The Skeptic

The Skeptic will never be satisfied with any amount of research proving that migraine is neurological in origin. In his mind, Migraine is the psychosomatic disorder of women and weak-willed men. The medications used to treat Migraine are further evidence of psychological origin because they are also used off-label to treat depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more psychological disorders. When provided with examples outside of psychiatry, the Skeptic brushes off the results as placebo effect. As far as the Skeptic is concerned, all migraineurs need to “suck it up”, take a pill, and get back to work.

The Headtrip

The Headtrip can’t wait to crack open your psyche and discover what existential trauma is to blame for your misery. He or she thinks your pain is purely psychological in origin. The cure is found when all psychic wounds are healed. If you are still hurting, then you still have unresolved emotional issues.

The Faith Healer

This troll may or may not be religious. Sometimes they come in the form of a “positive thinker”. What each has in common is the belief that if you just pray hard enough, meditate long enough, think positive enough, your Migraine will be healed. If you follow his or her instructions and still struggle with Migraine, the answer is always the same, “Maybe you just don’t really want to get well.”

These stereotypes represent the most extreme versions. I’ve exaggerated their qualities in order to help you easily recognize Migraine Trolls by their unique traits. The actual people represented aren’t always malicious. Most of the time, their intentions are good. What makes them Migraine Trolls is that they are unable or unwilling to change their views, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. Do not waste your time trying to educate those who simply refuse to learn. You will only frustrate yourself and add more stress to your life.

During the proofreading and editing process, one of my reviewers pointed out that she had been guilty of some of these behaviors at one time or another. I know that I have been guilty, too…maybe not with Migraine, but certainly with other conditions. It is all too easy to react without thinking, say something insensitive, or even close our minds to new information. We can become so blinded by our own bias that we forget to be open to new information or the experiences of others. In our efforts to help, any one of us could turn into a “troll” if we’re not careful.

So in addition to ignoring our own “trolls”, let’s make an effort not to become one either.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • peeperview
    4 years ago

    Thank you for articulating in a crystal clear way what any chronic migraineur, such as myself, has experienced.

  • Anne
    4 years ago

    loved this!!! I have encountered so many of these. I think until there is some clear physiology of what causes migraines, certain people will be convinced that it’s not a real ailment. I hate patient shaming. My mom is on some magnesium kick because she read that this woman ‘cured’ her migraines through magnesium (like that’s not the first thing that I tried). I tried to explain that if her migraines were ‘cured’ they were probably just headaches. I hate that everyone wants to have an opinion about my health. But, still, I am willing to try any and all suggestions, just to get them out of the way if nothing else.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    I encountered one the other day. I had to miss a memorial service because of a monster migraine. Had someone put me down because I wasn’t there just because of a headache!! I wish I had just had a headache…couple of Motrin and I’d have been fine!! GRRRR!! To this person a migraine is just a simple headache.

  • Emily A
    4 years ago

    I love this! I’ve stopped seeing two different therapists because they were trolls and their institance on their version became useless. One decided that I needed to breathe through the pain… And the other thought that my chronic migraines might be due to my vision to the point where he talked to my PCP! I was done trying to educate both of them.

  • Kelli
    4 years ago

    Thanks for this well-written article… I just loved it! I agree wholeheartedly with your thought that most people don’t intend to be trolls too… they are just dead set in their own beliefs and have a hard time letting go. It’s in our own best, self-preserving interest to not engage with them once we determine “troll status.” I do think there are some professionals out there who should know better, and those are the ones I do get frustrated with a big still!! But, I’m older now (45) and have learned that nobody is perfect… if you can take these best from them and leave the worst… you’ll be doing pretty good!! 🙂 Thanks again for a great post.

    P.S. I had to really laugh that you specifically brought up Topamax and that there is definitely a segment of people who will get after you for taking long term prophylactic medications like those (would they do that if you said you were Epileptic… I bet they wouldn’t). I went back on it about 1.5 years ago after having had a bad experience maybe 10-12 years ago… and this time, it took me out of severely chronic (only 2-4 clear days a month) to much more manageable and the bad side effects waned after 7-8 weeks. But, I laughed out loud when you mentioned it, because I’ve been on so many boards where it stirs up quite the discussion… and I’ve stopped seeing my Acupuncturist (who I love – she’s helped me tremendously in the past as well) while on it because I know she’d rather I not be on long term phrama like those if at all possible (and trust me, I’d sure rather not be on them either, and wouldn’t be if I had a choice).

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    thank you for this. As I have struggled with this chronic disorder, I have also struggled with “the trolls” of loved ones coming out. And Tammy, I think you are right. I think it is our own natural, preconceived bias about it. Hopefully, out of love, with positive communication, those closest to us will be able to overcome their bias. And we will do well to love them by exploring our own bias regarding the needs those we love also.

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago

    So eloquently put! It’s so much easier to see other people’s biases and be blind to our own.

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    “Maybe you just don’t really want to get well.”

    I went to a Naturopathic Doctor that when her treatments did not help she told me to consider going to a Counselor to see why I didn’t want to get well. So this attitude can be found in professional medical care also.

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago

    Most definitely! I was thinking of a few chiropractors and doctors when I wrote this article.

  • RobertCan
    4 years ago

    It’s been my experience that most men fall into “The Skeptic” category. They see migraine as a female disorder, perhaps because fewer men suffer with migraines and even fewer will admit to it, especially to another man.

    Speaking of sexism, I sometimes find women equally surprised when they learn I’m a man with migraines. Migraines are often linked to menstrual cycles and hormones in the minds of many people of both sexes. Encountering a male migraineur is akin to bumping into Bigfoot. In my experience, the male species definitely see me as an anomaly, perhaps even “weak-willed” as mentioned in the definition of ‘The Skeptic’.

    I’m well aware that my female sufferers outnumber me but that doesn’t make my pain any less debilitating or real. And it’s certainly not the result of being weak-willed. To the contrary, I know that my fellow sufferers of both sexes are tremendously strong-willed in their search for relief. Our wills are tested far more often than most.

    But what do I know? I’m just a weak-willed man with a bad hormone headache 🙂

    Here’s to keeping the migraine trolls under the bridge and out of sight where they belong!

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago

    You are not weak-willed! Some of the strongest men I know have Migraines…and they’re all related to me. 🙂 I inherited them from my father and my son inherited them from me. Migraine is an equal-opportunity torturer.

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