10 Misconceptions About Chronic Disease Many People Believe

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You can’t understand illness by just looking at a person

Very soon after being diagnosed with RA, I learned that most people have beliefs about chronic illness that are hard to overcome. When one neighbor, friend, and family member after another dismissed me, I did the same thing most people with Rheumatoid Disease (PRD) do: I quit talking about it. But even if we mind our own business, sometimes our health becomes a topic of conversation.

Standing in line an airport with a friend a couple years ago, I had my shoes off as usual. Another traveler teasingly chastised me for “claiming” my feet hurt so early in the day. I teased back that he couldn’t tell what’s wrong with a person by looking at her. He looked confused when my friend and I described Rheumatoid Disease, so I quizzed him about which one of us had lymphoma as well (my friend). You just can’t tell many illnesses from looking at a person.


10 things about illness people think without thinking

1)     If you were as sick as you say, I’d be able to tell by looking at you.
2)     You brought this on yourself somehow.
3)     If you were in pain, you could not be smiling (working, exercising…)
4)     There is a simple answer you haven’t tried (cherry juice, Tylenol, exercise…)
5)     Everyone has had the same symptoms as you, but you exaggerate yours.
6)     Your life is still generally normal, and just like everyone else’s.
7)     (Fill-in-the-blank) “cured” So-and-so, so it would cure you too.
8)     You’re using your illness as an excuse to avoid things you don’t want to do.
9)     Your illness is psychosomatic (in your head, hypochondriasis, a spiritual problem…)
10)  If you would take better care of yourself, you’d be fine.

Marie Osmond Nutrisystem commercial

Marie might know better, but she probably just reads whatever script they give her. At 42 seconds in this commercial, Marie says: “Let me tell you something: when you take care of your body, man, it takes care of you.” That’s not necessarily so. Would daily exercise and fresh home-cooked meals help prevent RD? It didn’t help me. But it is a common message of the modern wellness culture that contributes to the difficulty understanding a disease where your body turns on you.

I’m not picking on Nutrisystem, but marketers know what will sell: our health is in our own hands, and you’ll be well if you take care of your body. Add that to the obstacle of understanding invisible symptoms, and you breed many misconceptions like those in the list.

Which ones have you heard? What causes have you noticed in society?

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, November 8th, 2013 at 9:30 am and is filed under The Real Rheumatoid Disease. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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