Invisible Illnesses, Not Invisible Symptoms

According to Molly’s Fund, a charity that supports invisible illnesses, “Invisible disabilities are chronic illnesses and conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living. In the United States, 96 percent of people with chronic medical conditions show no outward signs of their illness, and 10 percent experience symptoms that are considered disabling.”

Invisible illnesses like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and chronic pain are very present in many people, but you often wouldn’t know by looking at someone – or even talking to them. They are diseases that run under the surface, and are often hard for people to understand. These invisible illnesses are tough – not just for the people that have it, also for the people that stick with them – while they’re going through it. Invisible illnesses are emotionally taxing on both ends because it can be difficult to open up about. How do we introduce the topic when we meet someone new? Do we even introduce the topic at all?

There are things to remember when approaching the topic of invisible illnesses. Having anxiety, depression, or ADD/ADHD is physically demanding at times, and obviously even more mentally demanding most of the time. When you have a mental disease, emotional needs can change daily, even every few hours. Here are some things to understand about invisible illnesses:

“But you don’t look depressed? You look fine.”

The struggle to invisible illnesses is that they can go undetected. Sometimes it isn’t obvious if someone is depressed or struggling with chronic pain. Many times people with anxiety, depression, or ADHD suffer very silently – because they don’t want to make a big deal out of their situation, they think maybe other people won’t understand, or they might be embarrassed to admit.

According to www.invisibleillnessweek.com, “Approximately 96 percent of people who live with an illness have an illness that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and may look perfectly healthy.”

Always remember that even people, who seem totally fine, like they have it all together, can be battling a war on the inside.

Some things you can’t just “get over.”

An invisible illness is not something that can be cured with a simple “everything will be alright. You don’t have anything to worry about, it’s really not a big deal.” Just because you can’t physically see someone’s pain, that doesn’t mean they are not struggle. It’s very understandable, and helpful, that people want to express to someone that whatever is causing them stress and/or anxiety is actually not a big deal, and in retrospect it may not be, but in the moment when an anxious person is at the height of an episode, telling them to relax only makes them feel like you’re brushing aside something that is very real to them.

Now that you understand more about what invisible illnesses are and how to help alleviate them, you can understand a little bit better what it is like for the people experiencing these disease. As someone with anxiety, I don’t pretend to know all the answers or experiences to the subject of anxiety or mental health, and I understand my experience, my triggers or struggles are not universal. However, I do hope a little explanation or inside to the world of invisible illnesses can help anyone who is struggling to realize they aren’t alone.