First things first; what is a hidden disability?
A hidden disability is classified by www.disabled-world.com as disabilities that are not imediately apparent. i.e. medical or emotional conditions that are not visible and yet actively limit a person from performing one or more everyday tasks.
Also according to Disabled-World's publication on hidden disabilities about 10% of americans are living with a hidden disability. Thats a whopping 32 394 891,7 people, which is only a small portion of people world wide. thats a lot of people living with hidden disabilities.
Now that you have some statistics, and hopefully have developed a greater desire to know more, I am sure you will want to know what makes me qualified to tell you about livng with a hidden disability. I have been living with a severe progressive hidden disability for the last 10 years, with no hope of a cure. I have had first hand experience dealing with the ridicule of able bodies people who don't understand and don't want to learn, and I have had the pleasure of dealing with people like yourself who are eager to know more. I have experiences invisible pain and fatigue, as well as emotional and sensory overload. I know from experience th strain on ones emotional health when faced with the invisible struggles daily and have faught with the depression that so often accompanies these hidden disabilities.
And so, without further adu, I would like to share with you what I have learned on the subject of hidden disabilities, and the mitigation thereof.
Insights and information
A disability is generally classified as an imparirment or ailment that in some way limits your ability to perform everyday tasks or actions. Paralysis and amputation would be good examples. However hidden disabilities are a lot harder to identify.
For example; a person living with fibromyalgia mght seem perfectly capable one day, and the next be unable to even get out of bed. The pain he or she experiences is not visible to others and therefor he or she is not always believed when he or she mentions it. However, it is important to remember that although it may not be visually obvious, his or her disability is just as valid as a visible disability.
In the case of severe fibromyalgia particularly, it can be observed that the muscles become weak and unable to function normally, this means that although the patient looks as thouggh he or she should be perfectly capable of running a mile, he or she is unable to walk more than a few steps, and even this would be a challenge.
This inability to function normally, almost always has a negative efect on the emotional state of the patient. Being misbelieved by others or told that they are not trying hard enough to overcome thier hardships, makes the patient feel as though they are not good enough. Therefore it is important to ensure that when talking to a person with a hidden disability, that you do not belittle their efforts and ensure that you are encouraging in how you adress them.
I have spoken to a variety of people living with hidden disabilities, and the advice that they all gve is as follows; Do not give unsolicited advice, If a person has been living with hidden disbility for some time, it is vastly insulting when a person who has little or no experience with the condition tries to tell the person living with it how to do so. If you are living with a hidden disability and have more experince with it than another person also living with the disability, then advice is usually well recieved, otherwise, keep it to yourself.
With regards to mitigation of a hidden disability, for most conditions there are medications, therapies or support goups that are very informative and useful. www.dailystrength.org offers a variety of support groups that are very informative and helpful.
Some hidden disabilities might include: diabetes, dyslexia, fibromyalgia, cistic fibrosis, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and many more, some of which can be found listed below.
Service animals can be very useful in mitigating even the most obscure hidden disability. For example, I have a service dog who is trained to assist me with my fibronmyalgia, some of the tasks he performs are; Deap pressure therapy (which is when he leans or lies on the area of my body that is in pain or just lies on my stomach to relieve stress or anxiety. This technique is often used for children with autism to reduce the sensory overload that occurs, which leas me to believe that at least some of the symptoms experience by people with fibromyalgia and / or mild traumatic brain injuries, is caused by sensory over stimulation.) Vocal alerts (which is when he "speaks" on command to alert a caregiver of my need for assistance.) Retrieval ( he will retrieve dropped items or items that are our of reach to me, due to the fact that a lot of the time it hurts to bend down or reach for things) Opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, bracing to help me regain or retain balance, pulling me up slopes or stairs, alerting me to the need to olie down or sit down, before I lose my balance or all of my remaing strength, grounding (where, by holding onto him I am able to bring myself out of a stressfull situation and focus on him.) Comic relief (Perhaps his most important task in to keep my spirits up, so as to avoid a decent into dpression which could lead to suicidal thoughts)
While these tasks are invaluable to me, there are many other dogs that have been trained for many different purposes, there are dogs for autism, diabetes, cancer detection, PTSD, and many more. I could include a link or two, but to be honest there are so many organisations world wide that train service dogs for all sorts of disabilities,it would be a futile endeaver. If you are interested to know more, just google: Service dogs for ... and insert the name of the isability you wish to mitigate.
As with everything there are good side an bad sides to having a hidden disability. If you are a fan of animals, then we have touched on a good side, one of the bad sides, however, is the tendency for many people living with hidden disabilities, to become depressed.
Many able bodies people try to get thier disabled friends to "see the bright side", without realising that sometimes this is not easy to do. The more an able bodied person tells a disabled person to look on the bright side the more that disabled peron is likely to ignore that advice. I have seen it time and time again and gone through it myself. Human nature dictates that we will not be able to be content with what we have until we have seen that there is some way it could get worse. Usually the best thing for an able bodied person to do, is leave the phsycology to the proffessionals. And if you are living with a disabiliy, hidden or otherwise, it is advisable for you to visit a psychologist and come to terms with your situation.
So we can see that all disabilities are equal, whether they are invisible or not, and it is important for us to see them as such.
Every disability matters
What about you?
Do you have a hidden disability?
Working service dog with wheelchair
A working service dog
- Not all disabilities are visible
- Treat people with hidden disabilities with the same respect you would treat someone with a visible disability.
- Don't offer unsolicited advice
- There are support groups for almost every ailment
- Service dogs are a valuable asset to anyone with a disability, hiden or otherwise
- Not all disabilities are the same, but they all have merit.
- Always visit a proffessional to ensure your physical and emotional security.
List of common hidden disabilities
- Hidden Disabilities: What Are Some Common Hidden Disabilities?
- Invisible Disabilities: List & Information - Disabled World
Information on invisible disabilities including a list of hidden disabilities with physical and mental impairments
- DailyStrength: Online Support Groups and Forums
Join the support groups and forums in DailyStrength's free, anonymous online community to talk to friendly people facing the same challenges.