But you don’t look ill …

An invisible illness is defined as a chronic condition that is not easily observed by the general public. Some aren’t picked up readily by medical professionals even though they are debilitating and prevent the patient from performing regular activites. The problem? There is no obvious physical symptom to be observed. To gain the term chronic, an injury or an illness must have symptoms lasting longer than a year.

Someone with a chronic condition could be dealing with exhaustion, dizziness or cognitive impairments, chronic pain, nausea, diarrhea, yet, on the outside, appear to be completely healthy. The most difficult issue with having an invisible illness is explaining to others how you can look healthy and strong but actually feel so bad.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Gaucher’s and mental illnesses are a few. The latter disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood and ability to relate to others and prevent a person from functioning properly on a daily basis. A mental illness simply cannot be overcome by using will power, nor is it related to a person’s character nor intelligence.

I know of patients with invisible illnesses who visit several medical professionals before receiving the correct diagnosis only because their illnesses are not obvious at first glance, so there are doctors who dismiss initial symptoms as a patient’s overreaction, or decide that this person is suffering from hypochondria. Patients have been dismissed as being simply depressed when reporting chronic pain or fatigue.

When encountering a friend who might complain of any of the above, empathy is of the utmost importance. It is easier to tell this person to snap out of it.



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