Invisible diseases that aren’t always obvious

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Modern society is often more forgiving to obvious illnesses compared with years gone by. But if you’re suffering from an invisible disease, people aren’t as sympathetic. From depression through to fibromyalgia, invisible diseases come in lots of forms. Learning more about them can help you support those who suffer from them.

First of all, what are invisible diseases?

Invisible diseases are those that can profound effects, but they don’t have any obvious signs. Let’s take Selma Blair as an example. When she made her appearance on the red carpet at the Oscars last weekend, she appeared as glowing as ever. The only obvious sign of her MS was the cane she relied on for stability.

While celebrities such as Selma Blair receive much-deserved support, average people with invisible diseases aren’t as lucky. This issue becomes even more complex when those people, like Selma, are young and otherwise healthy looking. In such cases, discrimination and a lack of patience can become points of frustration.

That discrimination may even come from healthcare professionals when the invisible diseases in question are difficult to measure. If you can’t capture it with an image or confirm it with a blood test, some assume the condition doesn’t or that it is being exaggerated. Here are three of the biggest examples:

Disease one: Fibromyalgia


Individuals who suffer from fibromyalgia are likely to experience pain throughout the body. Although this pain isn’t continuous, it doesn’t have an obvious cause. It’s similar in nature to the pain those with measurable inflammatory conditions experience, such as arthritis.

As a diagnosis of exclusion, this is one of the most poorly understood invisible diseases. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Signs of irritable bowel syndrome

At present, there is no direct treatment for fibromyalgia. Those who suffer from it are likely to encounter frustration as they may experience lots of pain, but the cause isn’t obvious. Some studies have found that gentle exercise reduces the symptoms, including swimming.

Disease two: Depression

Unlike some other invisible diseases, depression attracts a lot more sympathy. However, many of those who suffer from it may find that the people around them are unsupportive when they don’t feel their depression is justified. One of the most common and unfortunate myths about the condition is that it will always follow a traumatic period. Depression is incredibly complex, which means it can occur even when it seems as though everything is going well.

One of the best ways to tackle this invisible disease is through seeking support. In addition to asking friends and family members for their time, you can try talking therapies. Many people find that exercise is incredibly useful. If you feel it’s necessary, you might also want to ask your family doctor for medication.

Disease three: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is one of the more mysterious invisible diseases. It usually arises when someone has experienced a virus. One of the viruses most often associated with it is Epstein Barr, aka glandular fever.

Those who suffer from CFS will feel overwhelmingly tired. Their fatigue can prevent them from engaging with everyday activities, which can then lead to other health conditions and mental health difficulties. For some, CFS is an invisible disease that only affects them once. Others may find that it comes in waves, with periods of stress making it more likely.

As a complex condition, CFS doesn’t have a set treatment regime. With the right medical support, you may find that you can experiment with talking therapies, supplements, and pharmaceutical medications to relieve your symptoms. However, the journey can feel long and frustrating until you find what works for you.

Whether you’re suffering from invisible diseases or you know someone who is, always remember that patience is key. With the right support and understanding, those who have conditions such as fibromyalgia can establish a treatment plan that works for them.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.