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Stigmatizing Statements Kids Hear About Migraine

It’s hard enough to be an adult with a migraine—but to be a kid suffering the same fate is leagues worse. So many kids who have migraine aren’t taken seriously by the adults—parents, teachers, and principals—in their lives. This only compounds the problem, causing many of you to suffer in silence, sometimes for years.

It’s our hope that this and future generations of kids won’t have to deal with the same stigmatizing comments and hassle. We also hope that by talking about it, many of you will see that you were not alone. Then and now, we hope that more people come to understand that childhood migraine is real, and needs to be taken seriously.

We reached out on the Migraine.com Facebook page, asking: “What stigmatizing statements do you remember hearing as a kid with migraine?”

More than 100 of you weighed in. Here’s what you had to say.

“You are too young for migraine!”

Very few people understand that migraine can begin at any age. They can start in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. More than a few of you shared that because you were so young when the migraine started, nobody believed it was possible.

“You are too young for migraines! Thank goodness for my mama and trips to the emergency room to get medication to knock me out! In 1980s that is all they would do for you.”

“In first grade, I raised my hand and told my teacher that I had a sick headache and needed to go to the restroom because I was going to be sick. I was told that I was too young for headaches, and to put my head on my desk and I would be fine. Not long afterward, I threw up all over my desk and myself. My parents were called to take me home, and my teacher learned I was not too young to have migraines.”

“‘You’re too young to have headaches’ as a 9-year-old takes 3 more Advil and goes into a dark room for a few hours.”

“I was told it was in my head.”

Many of you shared that the adults in your life accused you of faking it all. You were told it was all in your head—which was true, but just not in the way that they thought. People dismissed and downplayed your pain. We’re saddened that these experiences were and are so common. If only more adults took the time to pause, and ask questions to get more information.

“I was told it was in my head, and that I was trying to get attention.”

"'It’s all mental’ or ‘it’s just growing pains.’ It was told to me so many times by doctors and other relatives I even started believing it.”

“I was 10 when the vertigo started. I was told it was in my head, and that I was trying to get attention. I even got in trouble for vertigo spells and other weird sensations. I still struggle with feeling ashamed of my migraines and a phobia of vertigo that resulted.”

“You’ve decided that you're going to have a migraine every day, so your mind has manifested it.”

“You are faking this to get attention. Even our family doctor suggested this because I was vomiting all the time.”

“She just doesn’t want to go to school.”

Part of the problem, too, is that kids can’t fully articulate what they are experiencing, and thus that leaves a gap that adults fill in. Many of you shared that the adults in your life made the quick assumption that a kid would only complain of a migraine in order to get out of going to school. A few of you mentioned feeling trapped at school until relief finally came.

“It’s all in her head. She just doesn’t want to go to school.”

“The principal at my grade school did not believe I could be that sick. He thought I was faking it to get out of school. Thank goodness for the wonderful secretary that would take care of me till my parents could come get me.”

“Just wanted out of school.”

“You need to cut your hair.”

Many of you had the misfortune of dealing with adults who tried to explain away your migraine, but did so with the most ludicrous of suggestions. Really, what would have been more helpful was if they had just taken the time to sit and listen to you, and to give you the comfort and care you so desperately needed.

“‘You need to cut your hair. It’s too long and heavy, causing your headaches,’ was what my mom told me.”

“It must be because of her eyes. (I have a lazy eye).”

“My mom still tells me to this day that I just need a hobby and to think happy thoughts.”

We want to thank everyone who shared about your childhood migraine. It’s our hope that more people understand the severity of the issue and change their attitude from disbelief to one of helpfulness.

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

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