What is the difference between intensity and impact?

One way MigraineMind is different from most migraine diaries is how it allows you to distinguish between a symptom’s intensity and impact. The distinction between the two may not be obvious at the beginning but it is very useful. Read on and find out why.

Intensity

Intensity is simple to understand. It is a rating of how strongly you feel a given symptom. All migraine diaries have it. We use an arbitrary scale of 1 to 10.

For example if the symptom is pain, an intensity of 1 could be a pain level that is slightly uncomfortable. Intensity of 10 would be the worst pain you have ever felt.

If the symptom is nausea, an intensity of 1 could be slight discomfort to a 10 where you are bent over the porcelain altar.

Keep in mind that there is no hard fast rule as to how to grade the intensity of a symptom. It’s hard to map something you feel to an arbitrary number. Go with your best guess. What is important is to put what feel in your diary. The more you do it the easier it gets and over time you will be able to look back and get a better picture of your migraine symptoms.

Impact

Think of the impact as the extent to which the symptom affected your ability to function. Now you might wonder: how is that different from the intensity? If my migraine symptom is intense, does it not automatically have a high impact? The truth is that for some symptoms intensity and impact often go hand in hand (nausea comes to mind). But that is not true of all symptoms depending on what you need to function.

For example, one of your migraine symptoms may be tinnitus. If your work requires that you hear clearly (e.g. phone conversations, attending classes / seminars, performing music, teaching) , a high intensity tinnitus would have a high impact. But it is also possible that hearing clearly is not essential for much of what you need to do (e.g. writing, drawing, programming, reading, calculating, building, etc…), in which case the symptom would have a medium or even low impact.

You could also be able to take measures to minimize the impact of your symptom. For example some migraineurs are able to reduce the impact of light sensitivity by wearing a hat and / or tinted glasses.

You can specify one of three values for a symptom’s impact: low, medium or high impact. What they mean is really up to you, but we recommend using this simple rule of thumb:

Low impact

Choose low impact for symptoms that are inconvenient but do not prevent you from what you need or want to do.

Medium impact

Choose medium impact for symptoms that prevent you from being fully functional. You can get some things done, but you have to slow down or do less. You might require help for some tasks.

High impact

Choose high impact for symptoms that leave you incapacitated. You know the ones. When you can’t get out of bed. When you have to hide in a dark and quiet room and beg for mercy.

Pain symptom with low impact and intensity of 1

Pain symptom with low impact and intensity of 1

Pain symptom high impact and intensity of 10

Pain symptom high impact and intensity of 10

Tinnitus symptom with low impact and intensity of 10

Tinnitus symptom with low impact and intensity of 10

Tinnitus symptom with high impact and intensity of 10

Tinnitus symptom with high impact and intensity of 10