CW: This article discusses topics of disability and mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.
The impact of an invisible disability
Not all disabilities are visible- it is suggested that around 70% of individuals have hidden impairments. A non-visible disability refers to a condition that is not immediately obvious, which defies the well-known stereotype of what a disabled individual "should" look like. In turn, this makes it difficult for those individuals to access medical and social help, which could aid their quality of life.
A non-visible disability can be physical, mental or neurological and due to the condition being 'invisible', this makes it additionally challenging due to others not being able to 'see' what the person is struggling with on a daily occurrence.
This could then lead to a negative judgement or misunderstanding of not only the disabled individual but the individuals non-visible disability.
Living with under the radar disabilities
Daily life for individuals suffering with a non-visible disability may include; mental health conditions- e.g. anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders. This could also include Autism or Asperger's syndrome. Visual and hearing impairments. Sensory and processing disorders. Cognitive impairments- e.g. Dementia, traumatic brain injury or learning difficulties. And other medical conditions for example; diabetes, chronic pain or fatigue and respiratory conditions.
Yes you may not be able to see them but they are definitely present.
How to treat an individual with a non-visible disability
Individuals with disabilities are no different from you and I. They would like to be treated with respect, kindness and as 'normal' individual. The disability may not be visible but it does still exist!
There is no rule to say an individual with a non-visible disability needs to enclose information to you when asked. Most tend to keep this private and to themselves. Respect their decision!
Support for mental illnesses/disabilities
Living with an invisible illness or disability can be very isolating. Living with an invisible disability can be challenging as others may not understand the challenges that you live with on a daily basis.
SANE is a leading UK charity providing emotional support and information to anyone suffering with a mental illness.
The CEO of SANE Marjorie Wallace states "We believe that no-one affected by mental illnesses should be alone when they face crisis, distress or despair".
This charity is accessible to all individuals looking for emotional support- this can be provided to you via phone call, text message or email. if you are suffering with mental illness yourself or are taking care of an individual who is suffering and need help, this charity is here for you.
Let someone give you a helping hand! Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help!
Some misconceptions you may face being an individual with an 'invisible' disability and how to address them
'But you look healthy'
This may be intended to be a nice gesture however, try explaining to this individual that although you may look fit and healthy it does not always reflect or mirror what is felt on the inside.
'But you're always smiling'
This is a very common misconception that an individual that is suffering from a non-visible condition is happy and enjoying themselves, demonstrating that they must feel okay. if may be easier for you to explain to this individual using experiences of happiness, excitement and laughter, then state there are still times that you feel unwell or not yourself.
'I wish I could relax like you'
Explain that while staying at home is an advantage for you it is not where you'd prefer to be. You would like to join in activities outside however your disability can disrupt your everyday life. Also make individuals aware if you feel upset, left out or frustrated and they will learn to be more inclusive.
'But you still go out partying"
Most people believe that you're either 'healthy' and do 'normal' activities or you are 'unwell' and 'bed-ridden'. There is no happy medium for individuals who don't understand your disability. Try explaining to these individuals that being unwell and joining in everyday activities like earning a living are not mutually exclusive.
You are NOT alone- Celebrities with 'invisible' disabilities
Selena Gomez- Lupus
Nick Jonas- Type 1 Diabetes
Emilia Clarke- Brain Aneurysm
Bella Hadid- Chronic Lyme Disease
Jessie J- Wolf-Parkinson-White-Syndrome
Morgan Freeman- Fibromyalgia
Orlando Bloom- Dyslexia
Daniel Radcliffe- Dyspraxia
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex- Anxiety disorder
Jim Carrey- Depression
Even though they are 'famous' and 'celebrities' they are just people!
They still have feelings!
And most importantly they are not invincible!
Some helpful reads within Mindless Mag: