Saturday, 8 February 2014

Myths & false statements; The reality behind the “nickname” & statistics about Trigeminal neuralgia

We’re over and over again being told that trigeminal neuralgia is 'the suicide disease' accompanied by some very disturbing statistics to “prove” it. Horrifying postulations are scaring sufferers, their family and friends. We have over months now gone digging deep. Is this information, which is going viral, really true? Let’s make it perfectly clear right now: NO IT IS NOT!

We want to emphasize, as you will see when you read on, that we know:
  • how painful Trigeminal Neuralgia is
  • that it's normal for people to sometimes feel they cannot cope with this horrendous pain (If you do have suicidal thoughts contact a helpline, your doctor or someone you can talk to immediately.)
  • that the statistics which we keep seeing are totally false: 
    • Do statistics on suicide due to trigeminal neuralgia exist? NO. FALSE.
    • Do 10, 26 or 50% commit suicide? NO. FALSE.
You don’t have to take our word for it, in the following we will show you some of what we've found. We will show you how you’re being used. We will show you why it can’t go on.

First we need to take a quick look back in history:

Where does the name come from?
We do not know when the first person suffered from TN, but we do know the first time the pain was mentioned in literature. It got recognized as an illness as early as the 17th century with reports in literature as early as 2000 years ago.

It might have been a Professor of Medicine, Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins University (US), who first linked suicide and TN to the public imagination. Osler was identifying the need for treatment and surgery, the former mortality rate of patients (many due to brain tumors) and the frightful intensity in which the attacks took place. Osler wrote about it repeatedly and it’s included in his medical books from 1912.

Osler wrote about this more than 100 years ago. Osler was talking about the past, the history of TN patients before his time and not as a scientific fact.  Osler has no mention of numbers or statistics in regards to suicide and TN.

So, is it so painful?
There is no shortage of documentation that trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful afflictions known to mankind. There is further no shortage of documentation that literature and medical personnel call it the suicide disease possibly due to the intensity of pain and that sufferers facing the highest pain might contemplate that they can’t go on.  

Does that mean I’m suicidal?
No. Living with a chronic affliction can be very tough on anyone regardless of situation, age, finances etc. When the pain is horrendous, we are mentally and physically at our worse and it is understandable to think “I can’t continue with this pain”.

When talking about suicide there is a difference between being passive suicidal and suicidal. Let’s look at some definitions: Suicidal: Purposeful self-injury with the intention to kill oneself (suicidal behavior), or, verbalizing plan, intent, and having the means to complete a suicidal act. Passive Suicidal Ideation (thoughts and statements): talking of thinking about “being dead” or killing or hurting yourself, but not really doing it. For example: “I wish I were dead. Sometimes I just want to kill myself, I feel so depressed.”

It is not uncommon to feel this way and according to any government information it is more common for women than for men to have these thoughts. Yes some have and some will choose to end their lives because of the pain. But this does not mean that you are suicidal, on the brink of committing suicide or will commit suicide because you have trigeminal neuralgia. 

If you do have suicidal thoughts contact a helpline, your doctor or someone you can talk to immediately.

To the disturbing statistics that are being presented?
After reading thousands of pages, reports, searched extensively for more than 6 months online, contacting organizations, support groups and reading government statistics from various countries, we can with 99.9 % certainty say that there is no such thing as any reliable statistics over people taking suicide because of having trigeminal neuralgia. Statistics on suicide due to trigeminal neuralgia do not exist. Anyone that claims to know statistics showing the number of people that have committed suicide due to trigeminal neuralgia are either very misinformed or actually lying. 

Let’s take a closer look
"Trigeminal neuralgia is called the suicide disease. In fact, for those who live with TN for more than 3 years, about half commit suicide." FALSE

In 2009 an article was published in a small journal around how to resolve trigeminal neuralgia through the work of a chiropractor. While the rest of the article is full of references, this rather disturbing statement does NOT have any reference at all. Going though all the references provided we did not find any mention of it either. When we also know that NO statistics about trigeminal neuralgia and suicide exist we can say it is taken out of thin air. The statement is false.

"The literature confirming the suicidal tendencies of someone suffering through TN paroxysms is alarming.  Approximately half of those people who live with TN for more than three years commit suicide;" FALSE

This comes from an article published online by another author in late in 2011. The quote, half will commit suicide, is taken from the article from 2009. It is interesting that a so called journalist comes with this kind of statement without any background check. Further more citing from one source hardly merits saying that the literature (as in plural) is confirming anything. If we are kind we could say that the author might mean the passive suicidal ideation (thoughts and statements) when we are in a bad place. Is this information alarming then? No not at all, as we've written earlier (from many different sources we might add) it is not uncommon at all to have such thought and it does not mean that anyone actually will commit suicide. This statement is false.

So to 2 other postulates that have been around, 
  • 50% of those having TN will commit suicide within two years
  • Of the 1.7 million known sufferers of Trigeminal neuralgia 26% will commit suicide as a result of the severe pain.
These we have not found anywhere else than in videos and on posters, but we can speculate that they might have been inspired by the first article maybe, being changed on the way to fit a dramatic message to bring about “awareness” or maybe just made up.

But so that no one will wonder "Can there be any truth in this?” NO there can not and there is not any truth in it. We'll have a closer look at the actual numbers:
We can make it very easy: Every support group, organization etc working with TN sufferers should see large numbers of deaths due to suicide every year. After 1, 2, 3 or 5 years they see no such thing. Does every person having TN lose half their friends in 2-3 years? No we don’t. 

Actually most of us don’t know anyone that has actually committed suicide due to trigeminal neuralgia, we might have heard about 1 or 2, but not in large numbers no. We are not saying that no one has ended their life because of the pain, we are saying that fortunately it is not many. 

This actually just needs some good old common sense, but we can bring some facts into it too. First if that had been the case organizations, support groups, medical journals and governments would have reacted. It would also mean that the total number of suicides per year would be much higher. We've read statistics from many countries,  not just the UK and the US, but let’s have a look at the numbers in the UK as an example as they are rather in the middle when it comes to suicides per country.

In 2011, 6045 committed suicide in the UK. That gives a ratio of approximately 12 per 100,000. According to official numbers, the ratio of people being diagnosed with TN per year is 4 to 5 per 100,000. Would no one react if such a large number of suicides came from one cause? It becomes even clearer when we then know that of the 4-5 per 100,000, 80% are women (if we use 4 as the ratio, 80% is 3.2). If we then compare that to the actual women who committed suicide in 2011 it shows how impossible that claim is as the ratio for women are only 5.6 per 100,000. Would no one react in the UK if over half of the women committed suicide due to TN? Would it not be investigated, talked about and started some inquires? In many countries now war veterans are followed closely just because they have seen they are a risk group. Would they not do the same if it also applied to TN. Of course they would. 

The need for real facts – no more myths
To conclude, the name ”Suicide disease” does not describe any normal outcome of having the affliction.  It has partly a historic component but is more than anything a descriptive illustration of the intensity and debilitating pain that trigeminal neuralgia is.

The assumption that having trigeminal neuralgia will lead to suicide is a myth and has no basis in reality. Statistics don’t exist and the numbers presented are taken out of thin air.

When dealing with a condition like Trigeminal Neuralgia, it is imperative that people learn, get educated and diagnosed. We still have a long way to go before knowledge and awareness are wide-spread. 

All awareness is not good awareness
In the process of raising awareness, understanding and empathy, it’s extremely important that what is being shared is true. We cannot allow sensationalism and the need for attention get in the way. We need people to understand us, to listen to us, to believe us. If they doubt anything, they will doubt everything. Does anything go as long as it’s in the name of awareness? No everything does not and should not go. If someone can lie about something as serious as suicide, what else do they lie about. It will ruin our credibility. 

What can we do to stop the wrongful information and myth?
Stopping a myth and speculative statements is not easy. But we can try. We need everybody who is willing to bring about awareness for TN, to do so without sensationalist postulations and wrongful information. Trigeminal Neuralgia is bad enough; we do not need to make up figures to make it worse. We have more than enough facts that it is real, that it is very painful and that it is one of the worst. We don't have to make up figures along the way.

We can all start by saying NO to posts, posters, videos, articles etc that misuse our trust, hope and future. Say NO to those who just play a game for attention and money. Say NO to those who show no respect for those who is affected by suicide by their loved ones, the family and friends.

And more importantly, has anyone promoting these false statement thought about the affect: that their misuse of information might actually lead to someone taking their life because they see no hope?

Because this is not just about awareness, it’s about so much more; it’s about children, men and women, fellow human beings that are in a difficult, vulnerable position. This is not a game, it’s about living breathing people who suffer, it’s about their families, their friends.

It’s about you, it's about me, it's all of us! 

Please note: If you do have suicidal thoughts contact a helpline, your doctor or someone you can talk to immediately. Do not wait. If you believe a loved one has suicidal thoughts, act immediately. Most countries have a suicide or health helpline. Do not hesitate to contact them.

This article is written by End Trigeminal Neuralgia 2014.

  • J M S Pearce “Trigeminal neuralgia (Fothergill‘s disease) in the 17th and 18th centuries“:
  • Suicide fact at a glance, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:
  • Suicide Statistics,
  • Coping with suicidal thoughts,
  • Suicide Prevention Guideline, MedlinePlus:
  • Articles from Suicide at MedlinePlus:
  • Trigeminal neuralgia information from National health Services (NHS):
  • Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Individual (American Association of Suicidology)
  • Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts(Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

It's A Pain In The Face!

I wake up in the morning, and straight away I feel it and I just we go again, another day with this pain.

From that moment, until I next fall asleep, it’s there.

I am on high doses of meds to try to keep the worst at bay. They help, though some days it doesn’t seem like it. My pain is there every day. Every single day.

Sometimes it’s there in a niggling kind of way. Burning or a bit achy or tingling. There....but I can try to forget. Not completely forget it. I can never do that. But I can live round about it, just being careful about what I eat and drink, careful about what I do so I don’t antagonize it.

But sometimes it’s there in a way I can’t forget it’s there. Feels like a knife is ripping up between my teeth, my teeth being pulled and twisted. My eye hurts....sometimes just aching, or pain in the corner, other times as though there are knitting needles being stabbed in it. My forehead and cheekbone feel so painful as if I have just banged against something. As if there is a huge bruise and I am pressing on it. Sometimes my head feels like it is being squashed. And every now and then, the pains will just surge. Sometimes the pain just suddenly comes out of nowhere, for no reason. 

Sometimes it feels too painful to breathe. Breathe in through my nose, and it's as though the air shoots right up my nose and slices through my head. Breathe in through my mouth, and the air hits my teeth.

I can get pain in my teeth, as though I have just put a live electric cable into my mouth. It’s as though it just sizzles all the way down every tooth to my chin, then along my jaw.  Thankfully, the Tegretol has controlled that type of pain to a degree.

I have no choice, but live with it. I try to make the best of a bad situation, but some days are definitely harder to deal with than others.

Smiling hurts....but I do it. Laughing hurts....but I do it. I try to enjoy doing what I can, rather than cry about what I can’t. So I can’t eat ice-cream or spare ribs, but I’m not going to cry about those things. I know there are things I can eat. And on the really bad days, I just thank my lucky stars that I have a caring husband who makes me something to eat, and says, ‘You need to eat....I know it hurts, but you really need to eat.‘

Every day of my life revolves around my pain. I have other pain too, not just TN. Although there is nothing just about TN.

But what can I do?

Sit and cry all day, or try to make the best of a bad job?

I try to choose the second option.


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