7 Things You Should not Say to Someone with Chronic Illness

By:Ariba Khaliq, Onlymyhealth Editorial Team,Date:Jan 20, 2015

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Chronic conditions don’t go away and are hard to understand. It’s difficult to know how to deal with a friend or loved one who has a chronic or invisible illness. There are certain things you should never say to them.
  • 1

    Chronic Illnesses are Hard to Understand. Be Compassionate

    It is a general notion that sickness goes away with treatment. Chronic conditions don’t go away. They are hard to understand. Problems like Chronic Migraines, Lupus, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, etc. don’t affect the sufferer’s appearance, but they affect how your body functions and feels. Every day. Probably for the rest of their life. When you say these things to someone with a chronic illness, you probably don’t mean to hurt their feelings. A lot of the time you are just trying to understand or sympathize. Well, from the perspective of a chronic illness sufferer, here are 7 things you should never say to someone with a chronic illness.

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  • 2

    “But you don’t LOOK Sick”

    Invisible illnesses are illnesses that you can’t see just by looking at someone. If your friend going through a divorce puts up a brave face and pulls themselves together, you don’t tell them “you don’t look like someone who is going through a terrible divorce.”. The same goes with chronic illnesses which not always are manifested outwardly. And there is a strong chance that on the days that you are seeing someone with a chronic illness, it is one of their better days because they are out at all. Everyone is going through some kind of struggle in their lives, and chances are, you can’t see it on the surface. There anyways isn’t a way to look sick; if there was, these people would make sure to get it right next time.

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  • 3

    “You’re too young to be sick”

    Teens and 20-somethings are seen as the picture of great health. But, you can get any kind of illness no matter your age. You can go through any kind of stressful or positive situation no matter your age. Age is completely irrelevant here. Young does not always equal healthy. When you say this to someone who is young, it just makes them feel even guiltier or embarrassed for having an illness they have no control over when society expects them to be healthy.

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  • 4

    “We all get tired”

    That may be true but you don’t understand what fatigue is for people with chronic illnesses. Imagine taking rest after taking a shower! That’s how fatigue hits them. If they go out drinking with friends and stay up late, it could take them a week to recover. They have to carefully plan every activity of the day so that they can save energy to do all of them. Don’t compare your tiredness to their unless you literally think to yourself “how much energy will that take?” for every single action you take during the day including brushing teeth, combing hair, standing to do dishes, putting on makeup, cleaning, driving, etc.

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  • 5

    “You’re just having a bad day”

    Trying to motivate someone and make them feel better by saying this doesn’t really work like you intended to. Personally, only about 10 people in sick people’s life see them on their bad days. If they are outside, dressed, and active, that is a good day. So instead of making someone with a chronic illness feel supported and motivated when you say this, it feels like you are brushing off their symptoms and it actually is discouraging.

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  • 6

    “It must be nice not having to go to work/school”

    If you only knew! Sure, it can feel that way when you take a day to play cricket or a long vacation. But not being able to go to work or school, even when you want to be there, is a whole different story. Everyone wants independence. And people with chronic illnesses might hate every day they miss at school or work, which according to you is a privilege. Having to stay home instead of being productive, just trying to find ways to distract yourself from pain or exhaustion feels like a trap after a day or two. And if you’ll ask anyone with a chronic illness, they would gladly trade in their symptoms for a full time job.

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  • 7

    “You need to get more exercise”

    There is no denying that exercise helps pretty much any health condition. But it isn’t a cure-all. For someone whose heart rate regularly reaches 120 bpm just from standing still, exercise isn’t always doable. Their “exercise” is more like physical therapy exercises than what most people would consider a good work out. And even if they do exercise, it will probably not be a cure for a condition that is caused by something totally different like an immune system that attacks itself or a nervous system that doesn’t regulate itself correctly.

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  • 8

    “Have you tried ____?”

    And from paleo diet, acupuncture, and super magic moon crystals, you suggest everything. You probably mean well and are trying to help, but just assume that someone with a chronic illness has tried every option available to them. Everyone wants to feel good. Unless you are a medical professional and/or a person with a chronic illness has asked for your advice, please keep it to yourself.

    Image: Getty

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