Common Misconceptions of the Chronically Ill

Psychology Today had a fantastic piece recently about misconceptions of the chronically ill. A 2011 report from WebMD showed that over 100 million Americans have chronic pain. In the article, they detailed six common misconceptions. It’s a powerful piece from a great magazine, and it should remind us all to not judge a book (or a person) by its cover. It’s important to be educated about these issues, and many of our friends, family, and loved ones may still be in pain and suffering. Here’s the first misconception:

 Misconception #1: If people look fine, they must feel fine.
Whether healthy or sick, it’s good for most people’s morale to try and look nice when they go out. I go out so seldom that I make an effort to look my best when I do. Sometimes I feel like a young child again, playing dress-up. That said, I always hope that if I see people I know, they’ll remember that looks can be deceiving.

I’ve had people say to me, “You look great.” I know they’re trying to be nice, so I make an effort to respond graciously (with something other than, “Well I don’t feel great,” spoken in an irritated tone of voice). But the truth is…there I am, “looking great,” while my body is pulsating with flu-like symptoms, my muscles are aching, and my heart is pounding so hard that sometimes it feels as if it must be visible to others on the outside of my body!

When people see someone whom they know is struggling with his or her health, I hope they’ll remember that they have days when they leave the house looking great but feeling terrible, perhaps from a bad night’s sleep or from lingering symptoms of an acute illness. If they understood that this is how most chronically ill people feel all the time, this common misconception would be well on its way to becoming an uncommon one.

Once again, this is a great reminder that chronic pain is often hidden from the outside world. While people may look happy on the outside, they could still be suffering immensely with a variety of pains. You can read the full article in Psychology Today by clicking here: “Six Common Misconceptions of the Chronically Ill” by Toni Bernhard