You may not have any of the telltale signs of a disability, but when it comes to trying to live the same kind of life as the people around you, it becomes clear that your health condition has more control over your life than you do.
What may have started as a minor pain or discomfort, has changed and transformed. The progression of your condition may have been exactly what your doctor predicted, but it still has started to impact your daily life in ways you never imagined. Now you find yourself unable to work and dependent on safety nets that you hoped you would never need.
Here’s what you should know about invisible illnesses and how they affect the ability to work.
What are invisible illnesses?
Just because someone has a disability, does not mean that they have a wheelchair or some other obvious sign. Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, and they all come with good days and bad.
Very simply, invisible illnesses are illnesses that are not obvious to the people around you. The symptoms often include things like pain and fatigue that leave you unable to keep up, but with nothing, anyone around you can see or understand.
Having an invisible illness can come with the extra obstacle of feeling like you have to convince everyone around you that you are disabled. Some people have the expectation that you should be able to work through pain and fatigue, without understanding how deeply these symptoms impact your daily life.
Diagnosis can be difficult
Since much of an invisible illness is dependent on the report of the person who has it, it can be difficult to understand the magnitude of it. When a person with a chronic pain disorder, for example, says they are in pain, it can be difficult to comprehend how much pain or just how much they are unable to do because of the pain.
Doctors are often caught in the middle, trying to diagnose invisible illnesses. On the one hand, they want to believe and care for their patient. But, on the other hand, they don’t want to be accused of helping someone “get out of something.” The process of trying to meet these two ideas can leave patients in a difficult place where they are unable to get the help and insurance coverage that they need.
Getting disability coverage can be difficult too
The first hurdle is getting a diagnosis, but often getting your employer to honor an insurance policy for disability coverage for an invisible illness can be just as challenging. When you seem “fine” your insurer will have the temptation to fight back and refuse coverage. If you run into this difficult situation, a federal law called the Income Retirement Security Act (ERISA) provides important protections. An attorney who is knowledgeable in the area can explain your rights and options.