Living With a Thunderstorm in Your Head
: A Multi-Layered Qualitative In-Depth Exploration of Men's Experiences of Migraine in The Context of Online Communities and Support Platforms

  • Tiago Jose Moutela Cardoso Leite

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Migraine is a common disabling primary headache disorder that affects several aspects of someone’s life. From painful episodes known for their severe pain and intense sensorial symptoms, migraines are a subjective experience that affects three times more women than men. However, men also experience migraines. This thesis has its epistemological grounds in phenomenology and adopts a lifeworld-led approach to inform online support structures for men with migraines. This programme of work includes a Meta-synthesis, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of men’s experiences of migraines, a Discourse Analysis (DA) study looking at online platforms for people with migraines, and a Thematic Analysis (TA) of men’s experiences of navigating online platforms for their migraines. The meta-synthesis highlights the lack of qualitative studies looking at men’s experiences of migraines and reports the significant role of the individual when it comes to living with migraines and seeking support. Findings from the IPA study emphasise the variety of physical and emotional symptoms of migraines and how elements of support are linked to the specific ways in which men live with this condition. Additionally, they highlight how masculinity and the fact that migraines are often perceived as a women’s condition can act as a barrier to men seeking support. Lastly, findings captured the importance of online platforms for support with migraines. Further findings from the DA and the TA study reinforce the potential of online platforms for support with migraines, in spite of alarmingly strengthening the argument that men are an under-represented and under acknowledged migraine population. Online platforms are often places of expertise by experience and can offer the ideal setting for people to come together and share their experiences and information. These are known for grounding themselves on a sense of community and togetherness which benefit people living with migraines. This thesis demonstrates the benefits of a mixed-qualitative-method approach to research and makes evident that men should be included in the discussions around migraine. Moreover, it reinforces the argument that online groups and communities should be looked at as potential tools for supporting people with migraines in general, and men in particular.
Date of AwardJan 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Larkin (Supervisor) & Rachel Shaw (Supervisor)

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