Living with Chronic Pain

Tips for Dealing With Intrusive Health Questions


Chronic illnesses can easily be misjudged by those who are not experiencing them first-hand. People may assume that you sound good and look better, or they may decide that you appear unhealthy. Questions may arise from concern and care; however, these inquiries are oftentimes invasive and improper.

Tips for dealing with intrusive and inappropriate questions about your health

When dealing with a chronic illness, you are oftentimes asked intrusive questions, which can be irritating and difficult to answer. Tips for dealing with these questions include the following:

  • Tell the truth. Being honest about your chronic illness may provide education to the person asking the questions. This can be done without going into detail or by being very specific. You are in control of how much information you want to share with others. If you are uncomfortable sharing details, you can be evasive or simply state that you would rather not share your private information.
  • Change the subject. Shifting the focus can help you refrain from answering prying questions. For example, if you are at a social gathering, try to bring someone else into the conversation and change the subject. Find ways to introduce another topic that will get others interested and conversing.
  • Notice the cues. You may be able to determine when intrusive questions are looming. Pay attention to the cues that lead to inquiries. When you feel an inquisition approaching, become engaged in a book or your phone. You could also state that you forgot to make an important phone call and step away.
  • Reply with humor. When someone approaches you with an invasive health question, you can reply with humor, such as “Are you an investigator?” If you are asked if you have problems walking, reply with “Only when I stand up.” Replying with humor is a good way to change the subject and avoid answering inappropriate questions. It can also provide light-hearted laughter.
  • Answer the question with a question. Meeting an invasive inquiry with a question may help the other person realize they are being improper. It also provides you with an opportunity to become an inquisitor. For example, if asked how you handle hurting all the time, simply reply with “Do you realize how lucky you are not to be in pain all the time?” Engage in a conversation about their answer to your question.
  • Voice discomfort. Letting someone know that their question is too personal is acceptable. You should be straightforward and let them know that you would rather not answer or that it is a private matter. Most people will appreciate your honesty and respect your privacy.
  • Walk away. When all other efforts fail, you may find the need to walk away. If a person is aggressive in obtaining details about your health, avoidance can help. This may include unfriending them on social media or blocking their phone number. Before walking away, be sure to find out why they are so fixated on your health, as they may have similar health issues themselves and just need someone to talk with.

Additional sources: The Mighty and Psychology Today

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