January 3, 2020

What is an Invisible Illness?

What is an Invisible Illness?

Did you know that many illnesses are invisible? An invisible illness is an umbrella term for any medical condition that isn’t clearly visible to others, such as chronic physical conditions like multiple sclerosis and arthritis, as well as mental illnesses. Also known as ‘hidden disabilities’, a growing number of Australians suffer from illnesses that are ‘invisible’ or hard to notice. While they may need home care services or a disability support worker, you wouldn’t necessarily realise at all that they were suffering just by looking at them. In fact, it is estimated that 11.4 million Australians, almost 50 per cent of the total population, are living with a chronic disease, many of which have invisible symptoms.

To help spread awareness and education on the topic, we take a look at what it means to have an invisible illness:

A Wide Range of Symptoms

Because the invisible illness term stretches across a vast spectrum of disabilities and conditions such as Diabetes, Fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain and tenderness), Endometriosis and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to name a few, this means the symptoms vary greatly and therefore can’t be narrowed down. What’s more, depending on the condition, symptoms can vary in strength and severity from time to time – so it can be even more complicated to tell if someone is having a particularly tough day with their illness, and may need extra home care assistance.

Invisible illnesses impact the everyday lives of those who suffer from them, and can impair someone’s ability to perform simple tasks. Some examples of invisible symptoms include debilitating pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive disfunctions (brain fog), sleep disorders as well as hearing and vision impairments to name a few. There is so much more to someone than what you can physically see, and just because you can’t visually see any symptoms, doesn’t mean they’re not suffering.

More Challenges Than the Illness Itself

While you would think these people would receive extra companionship and support from their community, unfortunately people with invisible illnesses can actually experience social isolation and loneliness. This is because there can be a lack of social awareness and a general misunderstanding for diseases and illnesses that are not visible. The added difficulties in everyday life for these people are that instead of receiving support, they can be faced with judgement and criticism from others who are skeptical of their pain and assume they are just ‘making it up’.

Hope for the Future

Just because someone has an invisible illness doesn’t mean that they should feel invisible too. A growing number of institutions, organizations and governments in Australia and around the world are implementing policies and regulations to assist those people who live with less visible medical conditions. By raising awareness of these illnesses and educating the wider society on the impacts, there is hope that community support will increase and diminish the stigma that surrounds some invisible illnesses. We just need to remember that someone can appear fine and be in constant pain at the same time.

If you, or someone you know or love has an invisible illness, you can find help with Home Care Heroes. We are on a mission to reduce social isolation and feelings of loneliness caused by disability, ageing or illness. Our carefully-screened Heroes provide non-medical assistance with anything you need such as household tasks, being an event buddy or skills training to name a few! Home Care Heroes is an NDIS-approved provider with an affordable flat rate of $35 per hour including weekends and public holidays. We have over 50 five-star ratings on Google and match our Members with local Heroes who share the same interests and values, to promote genuine companionship.

References:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-01/fifty-percent-of-australians-have-chronic-disease-health/11227298

https://www.talkspace.com/blog/what-is-invisible-illness-how-to-explain-it-to-others/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/invisible-illness_b_8178886

https://www.umass.edu/studentlife/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/Invisible%20Disabilities%20List%20%26%20Information.pdf