Throughout history writers have attempted to describe the symptoms and evoke the misery of “a dismal headache.”Writers from Plato to Stephen King have used the phenomenology of headache to illustrate their work. Lewis Carroll, for example, vividly describes the central scotoma, tunnel vision, phonophobia, vertigo, distortions in body image, dementia and visual hallucinations that often accompany migraine.

Although many authors have discussed the topic seriously, others have addressed the issue in a dismissive and even contemptuous manner, relegating this very real disorder to the status of a medical stepchild. We will examine headache etiology, triggers and treatment and explore the attitudes toward headache and headache sufferers found in literature.

We have recently seen a growing understanding of the physiological basis of headaches. However, this knowledge has not yet reached the level of literature or popular culture. In an age when it seems every Sunday night brings a new “disease of the week” movie, and every human ill is subjected to often intense and numbing scrutiny by the media, the anguish of a chronic migraine sufferer will probably remain unexplored - unless she kills her husband and children during an attack.