Understanding Chronic Illnesses versus Invisible Diseases

There is a big difference between understanding the definition of a chronic illness versus an invisible disease . People seem to believe because they understand that you have a chronic illness, they also understand you have an invisible disease. Unfortunately, most people are far from a true place of understanding.

Allow me to help you understand where I believe there is a true disconnect in understanding.

You see it is fairly easy for people to get that you have an illness that has no cure. When there is no cure, people understand that you will be dealing with whatever illness you were diagnosed with long term. That’s the easy part to understand. The disease will not just go away. Treatment won’t cure nor fix it and you will have the disease for as long as you live.

The hard part to understand is that you don’t look like you have an incurable disease. When you hear the words “chronic illness,” most people assume they will see the worst. They assume you will appear deathly ill. In some cases with some chronic illnesses you do appear ill. There are characteristics of different illnesses and treatments that stick out in people’s mind when they think of a chronic illness. For an example, when someone has lost their hair, people assume that they have cancer and are going through chemo because hair loss is a side affect of the treatment.

The truth of the matter is not all illnesses are able to be seen by the naked eye. Invisible diseases are still chronic illnesses, but you may not be able to tell that the person is ill. We look “normal” to the naked eye, but our bodies are fighting internally with all of its might. Our outward appearance may be pretty, while our inward appearance and organs are severely damaged. We could die just as quickly as those who appear ill.

It is imperative to understand the difference between the definitions and also understand the diagnosis of the people around you. If someone has an invisible chronic illness you have to be cognizant of their health just as much as you would with someone who has a visible chronic illness.

What do I mean?

Just as you would be considerate of someone with cancer who is clearly weak from treatment and the illness itself, you would have the same consideration for me who has Lupus which you can not see. Your expectations would be the same for the both of us. I look healthy, but the reality is I’m not and at the drop of a dime I could end up in the hospital or die, just as someone with a visible chronic illness could.

You truly need to remind yourselves when dealing with people with an invisible illness that they are truly sick no matter how good they look.

Now understand that we all, whether invisible or visible illnesses, have good and bad days. We all have days where we can do more than others. We all have the same mindset that we want to be looked at as normal as possible and don’t desire pity. We all strive to have a positive mindset and fight our disease as hard as we possibly can, but even on our good days keep in mind we are still sick.

If you can truly understand the difference between a chronic illness and invisible disease, interacting with your loved ones from a place of true understanding, you will be able to sustain a healthy relationship with them that just might save their lives!


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