Invisible Chronic Illness
96% of illnesses are invisible. These people do no use a cane or any assistive device and may look perfectly healthy. Sixty percent are between the ages of 18 and 64.
A “chronic” condition can be defined as any medical state of pain or symptoms that last 3 months or longer. This definition by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reports that chronic conditions typically have symptoms or pain that persists, regardless of treatment, such as the autoimmune illness chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, Alzheimer’s disease, migraines, or back pain from an event like a car accident.
It’s hard to know what to do when a person has an illness-even harder when it’s virtually invisible Click to tweet
Invisible Chronic Illness Statistics
- According to the report “Chronic Care in America, nearly 1 in 2 American live with a kind of chronic pain, condition, or illness. This can include anything from chronic migraines to disabling back pain.
- The US Public Health Report 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more chronic diseases.
- Report by Rifkin, Depression in Physically Ill Patients, Depression is 15-20% higher for the chronically ill than for the average person
- National Health Interview Survey, the divorce rate among the chronically ill is over 75 percent.
Living With Invisible Chronic Illness
For individuals, living with an Invisible Chronic Illness may result in lack of treatment, lack of income, and lack of social support services. Invisibility may also result in neglect of medical research into these illnesses, which in turn can hold back progress in diagnosis and treatment.
Beverly’s Hot Tips For Building Resilience During National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week:
- Do you ask them how they are feeling? Do you let them know that they can count on you? Absolutely. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Open the lines of communication and follow the other person’s lead. If they want to go into details they will. If they would rather talk about other things, they will let you know. It doesn’t need to be the whole conversation, but it shouldn’t be avoided as taboo either.
- It is important to be your own best advocate. Because your illness may not be one of the ‘big’ ones, may mean that you are not receiving the health care support that you need. One of my longest, dearest friends had to do her own research to come up with her diagnosis as she talked to doctor after doctor.
- As much as possible, keep connected to other areas in your life. It is easier to get sucked into the negativity of a debilitating illness when we let go of these other areas. Working, socializing and even day-today activities can be extremely difficult, but it is essential that you have something that can take you outside of yourself, if only for a short while. If you are unable to work, find something like reading or other hobbies.
- Reach out for support. It is only by opening up about your illness can you educate people and invite them to be there for you. You may be surprised that they might be dealing with their own Invisible Chronic Illness and could really use your support as well. Or they may become one of your biggest advocates or confidants. You won’t know until you give them a chance.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!