Chronic Illness Can Be Invisible

chronic pain How is chronic illness different from invisible chronic illness? This is a newer term in the field of medicine and psychology to describle the impact of chronic sickness in a specific group of disease state. Chronic illnesses that are not invisible are those that you can see the effects on the person. An example is chronic psoriasis where the person has plaque like lesions on the skin. They can be readily seen on the arms and legs. When invisible, this means there are no apparent outward visible problems and furthermore, 96% of chronic illness is invisible.

These illnesses now encompass:

One of the hallmarks of ICI (invisible chronic illness) is that the sufferer feels guilty for being sick.

How many times have you had a headache and heard:

"Well, you don't look sick." or.."If you are well enough to come to work, then get to work." or..."Yeah, we had to leave the party. Sue had ANOTHER headache."

If you have been suffering for years, statements such as these only serve to fuel the feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Headaches can often go on for years and years without proper treatment. After awhile, most people just learn to suffer in silence

If someone is making comments to you like those above, the best response is to ask the person if they have ever had severe headaches. If "no" ask them to imagine an ice cream headache lasting 2 days or 2 weeks. That is a form of a vascular headache, and when I explain this to spouses, friends, teachers and co-workers of my patients the look of surprise is almost predictable! The majority of the time they truly had no idea the pain was that bad. To further extend this, I use that analogy when doing lectures on headache. You might be very suprised to learn (or maybe you aren't..)that many healthcare providers have no idea how severe a migraine or cluster headache can be.

Unfortunately, since many ICI sufferers are unaware of the concept of ICI, they do not seek treatment for the end result of ICI...depression and/or anxiety.

The consequences of depression, even if mild, can impact your ability to heal. Read more about depression in illness. For now, until more people start to learn about invisible chronic illness, it is up to you to educate them! Start with your family and friends..then some co-workers you trust.

Slowly the ball gets rolling and as people understand more, they will be come less judgemental.

ICI is gaining national recognition and now has an National ICI week with a conference. The annual week for Invisible Chronic Illness is usually around Sept 8-14th.

If you feel that you are suffering from this problem, please discuss this with your healthcare provider.

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