What is Invisible Illness?
An invisible illness is a medical condition that is not visible to others. Millions of people have a chronic invisible illness, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and various other medical conditions. Because the condition is not physically visible, others may not understand that an illness is present. Oftentimes, individuals with a chronic invisible illness have to explain their condition and the limitations that occur as a result of their condition to others. Skepticism from others often leads to frustration.
Individuals who live with a chronic invisible illness often have to deal with a wide variety of stressors in their lives as a result of the illness. A significant lack of understanding regarding their condition from family, friends, co-workers or employers can lead to social isolation. Individuals may be mistakenly perceived as unmotivated and stubborn. Unprompted health-related advice is often given on the basis that said advice will magically cure the symptoms.
Sympathy is often lacking, not only from the people in an individual’s life, but also from their health care team. Health care professionals may be hesitant to credit symptoms of an invisible illness until a diagnosis is determined. Accessing appropriate health services can be difficult as many physicians are reluctant to confirm the diagnosis of invisible illnesses, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Also, insurance companies may deny coverage which can create financial problems.
Individuals with an invisible illness should educate themselves and seek health care providers that understand invisible illnesses and are familiar with these conditions. Providing educational material to people who have doubts about the condition can help. Asking loved ones to attend health care appointments allows them to ask providers direct questions about the condition. Joining a support group helps individuals learn coping techniques and ways to educate others about their illness