Invisible Illness


What Is Invisible Illness?

When you think of a disability, you most likely picture someone with an obvious condition or impairment that requires the use of a cane, wheelchair, or other device in order to function on a day-to-day basis. However, the majority of people suffering from debilitating chronic health conditions do not look any different from those who are not. These people suffer from what is known as an “invisible illness”.

Invisible Illness is an all-inclusive term that applies to numerous health conditions and symptoms. The common denominator lies within shared experiences, namely the stigma and misconceptions that surround the diagnoses. The term “invisible illness” can be used in reference to:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Celiac disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Stroke or brain injury
  • Autism
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Depression
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Spinal disorders
  • Chronic migraines
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • ADHD
  • Auto-Immune disorders

Though the symptoms and severity of each case of invisible illness varies, the majority of these disorders leave patients dealing with at least one, if not all of the following symptoms.

  • Chronic pain that is often so severe it limits a person’s daily activities.
  • Chronic fatigue that causes a person to feel constantly tired, no matter how much he or she sleeps at night.
  • Mental illness such as anxiety and depression that can become completely disabling without professional help.

How To Help Those With Invisible Illness

Though people struggling with invisible illness don’t wear their symptoms on their sleeve, it is important to recognize that their disorder is just as real and serious as a visible one would be. If you know someone with invisible illness, keep the following tips in mind.

Recognize their symptoms.

People who deal with both visible and invisible illnesses notice a distinct difference in the way they are treated when discussing their symptoms. People tend to respond to visible illness with sympathy and genuine concern, while invisible illness is oftentimes met with skepticism, doubt, and even downright judgement.

Accommodate their needs.

Despite being legally included under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a large number of those with invisible illness feel they have either been denied accommodations in the workplace or have decided not to disclose their disorder for fear of the stigma.

Unfortunately, chronic pain and chronic fatigue alone do not make a person eligible for Social Security Disability benefits in Tennessee or elsewhere, because complaints of pain and fatigue can be considered subjective. In fact, many doctors who treat patients with invisible illness inaccurately record their patients’ symptoms in their notes, and fail to fully consider which daily activities will be difficult for those with invisible illness to perform. As such, it’s important that we remain very mindful of those with invisible illness and accommodate them in any way we can.

Do away with the stigma.

As we mentioned above, research finds that stigma can have a negative effect on the quality of healthcare for people living with chronic invisible illness. Since many symptoms are not physically visible, doctors have a hard time diagnosing, treating, and sometimes even believing their patients’ conditions are valid.

This phenomenon is also common outside of the doctors’ office, as many people with invisible illness avoid talking about their experiences because it distances them from their friends and family. Many have trouble accepting that the symptoms are real or choose to avoid the person struggling altogether because they think there is no hope for them.

Understand their struggles.

People with invisible illness are often labeled as “lazy,” when in reality, they are just exhausted. Everyday activities that may be considered easy for you, are twice as difficult when you’re also navigating an influx of symptoms, a depressive mindset, and chronic pain on top of normal life stress.

Those who struggle with invisible illness so desperately want to be healthy and normal, but understand that their illness will inevitably get in the way of that sometimes. Showing them that you also understand their reality will go a long way in helping them to feel better.

Be patient.

Just because a person has one good day, does not mean that they are permanently cured. Invisible illness sufferers may go weeks without symptoms, only to be completely derailed by a bad day, seemingly out of nowhere. They are also forced to become very skilled in hiding their symptoms, even though they still feel completely miserable on the inside. Show them that you are there for them no matter what, and let them know that they can tell you if and when an activity becomes too much to handle.

Check in regularly.

If you have a friend or coworker with invisible illness, check in on them to make sure they are coping with their diagnosis well. Whether you’re offering a safe space for venting, helping them running errands, or even supplying a healthy, home-cooked meal, they will so appreciate your mindfulness and concern.

However, be wary of offering unsolicited advice. Those with invisible illness are used to people downplaying their symptoms, or even disregarding them completely. In fact, several of them have yet to even be given a formal diagnosis. Unless you also struggle with invisible illness yourself, you most likely do not understand it well enough to offer treatment advice.


If you’re still unsure how to handle people with invisible illness, or you feel that invisible illnesses are not relevant to you, remember that 96% of illnesses are actually invisible and that 60% of the people struggling with one are in between the working ages of 18 to 64. That means that you most likely encounter someone, be it in the workplace or in your social circle, that struggles daily. It is so important that they feel validated and accepted, regardless of their symptoms. Their illnesses should be regarded the same way any other illness or disability would be.

At the Biologix Center For Optimum Health in Franklin, Tennessee, we have helped thousands of people overcome their invisible illnesses. We recognize that each and every symptom is very real and as such, offer a place of solace and acceptance to those who carry these struggles with them each and every day. If you know someone struggling with invisible illness, we encourage you to share our center’s work with them. Our state-of-the-art facility is located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and offers treatment programs that can help facilitate the body’s ability to finally heal. We look forward to helping you!

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