There is a growing body of literature on the psychology of headache. Little of that research effort has gone to study patient attitudes toward the disorder, for example the impact of headache on the patient's subjective quality of life. Only one study (Packard, 1979) has recently focused on differences in perception between headache patients and their physicians.
The present study was designed to help fill a gap in the existing knowledge of patient perceptions. The respondents were first visit patients in a headache treatment center. A survey form was employed and revised and in two sampling efforts the opinions of two hundred fifty two patients were obtained.
The following areas of empirical interest are described: demographic characteristics of the sample and headache characteristics, the patient's perceptions of headache causation, the relationship between headache and other life problems, patients' understanding of relief factors, their own coping strategies, emotional reactions during headache and the “social stigma” associated with headache.
Patients frequently have concerns about where their case fits in to the whole spectrum of headache suffering. The data above, taking into account the fact that samples will differ from setting to setting, can be helpful in educating both patients and their physicians about this complex disorder.