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The Truth Behind 5 Common Chronic Illness Myths. What you need to know about chronic illness.

The Truth Behind 5 Common Chronic Illness Myths

The Truth Behind 5 Common Chronic Illness Myths. What you need to know about chronic illness. www.paintedteacup.comThere are many myths out there when it comes to chronic illness and unfortunately many of them paint those living with chronic illness in a very bleak light.

It seems that people have a very hard time understanding what they cannot see. Instead of trying to understand, people are more likely to make negative assumptions which is how myths and stereotypes are born.

I used comments that I have personally heard and also asked for input from others living with chronic illness. Surprisingly or not, these are all comments that people living with chronic illness have heard before!

The Truth Behind 5 Common Chronic Illness Myths

Myth: If you do not look sick then you must not have chronic illness

Truth: Many chronic illnesses are invisible. Examples of this would be diabetes, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, arthritis (in some cases), chronic fatigue syndrome and so many more. Just because you cannot see it doesn’t mean it is not real. You can’t see germs or air. What do you think the reaction would be if you told someone that there was no such thing as air because you can’t see it. I don’t think it would go over very well. Now imagine that someone tells you that they are in pain and you say “I can’t see it so it must not be true”. Sounds pretty silly right?

Suggestion: If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all.


Myth: Chronic illness is not real, it’s all in the person’s head

Truth: Chronic illness changes lives… and not in a good way. People with chronic illness often miss out on family events, miss time with loved ones, experience immense pain (physically or mentally) all while trying to carry out daily tasks. No one would ever choose to have chronic illness. It turns lives upside down. It invades family life. It is not made up, it is real… and it sucks!

Suggestion: Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

Myth: People are in pain because they are overweight and/or do not exercise

Truth: Chronic illness is non-judgmental. So much so that it is happy to take up residence in any body regardless of the shape or form it comes in! So yes, some people with chronic illness may weigh more than others and yes I am sure if we lost weight we would all feel better, that’s just a fact. However when it takes all your energy just to have a shower, it is highly unlikely that the same person will then be able to hop on the elliptical or go for a walk.

Suggestion: Don’t tell a person with a chronic illness that they are overweight and/or need to exercise. We are all very aware of our own bodies and chances are that said person is very aware that they are overweight. They are also probably very frustrated knowing that they cannot do much about it physically due to a lack of energy, lack of sleep or debilitating pain. Unless your loved one asks for your opinion, just keep your thoughts to yourself. Instead ask what you can do to help. Here are some tips for supporting a friend who is living with a chronic illness.


Myth: People with chronic illness are whiners and complainers

Truth: Most people living with chronic pain actually keep it to themselves and if they do mention it they often extremely downplay how they are feeling by saying things like “not great” or “having a rough day”. If you asked someone with chronic illness how they felt and they responded honestly you would hear something like: 

“I just want to scream… it feels like there are knives digging into my shoulder blades, my legs are being attacked by fire ants and I am itchy all over… I feel like my skin is crawling. My head won’t stop pounding and my hands and feet are tingly. I feel so depressed and hopeless, I just want to have ONE good day. Just one!”

But instead you get “I’m having a rough day” or “I am in a lot of pain today”. If you consider this to be whining and complaining after what I just described then I cannot help you to think otherwise.

Suggestion: Be compassionate & kind. Again, if you don’t have anything nice to say- keep it to yourself.

Myth: People with chronic illness are just lazy

Truth: People with chronic illness have a limited amount of energy to use in a day. If someone uses all their energy at the start of the day then they will be in bed for the rest of the day and potentially many days after that. People living with a chronic illness generally have a pretty good sense of their limits and know what can and cannot be done. If someone says that they cannot do something believe them or brainstorm together to see if there is a way to make said thing easier for that person.

Suggestion: To better understand the energy of a person with chronic illness, read this post about spoon theory.


I hope this helps to give you a better idea of the truth behind these chronic illness myths and what it is like to live with a chronic illness. If you found this post to be helpful please share it with others to help raise awareness about chronic illness and help to break the stigma!

What common chronic illness myths have you heard?

21 thoughts on “The Truth Behind 5 Common Chronic Illness Myths”

  1. I think it’s great that you are spreading awareness of the myths associated with chronic illness. You’re right, a person doesn’t have to “look” sick to be in pain.

  2. It’s so sad that some people can be so judgmental. There are people everywhere suffering, it could even be your family members, neighbors or friends and many times they suffer silently because of such judgmental people. I love the truth behind the myths you have here!

  3. Sometimes a person can have a chronic illness without looking ill and people can be quite unsympathetic. As you say, it never hurts to be compassionate & kind

  4. As a person afflicted with Lupus I feel like we are starting to break the barrier of ‘you don’t look sick’ and raising more awareness to chronic illnesses. However, it can get very frustrating to be asked “Why are you always tired” because people forget that I have a chronic illness.

  5. I totally understand this. A lot of my friends have chronic illness’s (us nerds are fragile). And I hear people berating them like this all the time. Happens to me as well, but I just brush it off. I wish people could understand…

  6. These are great examples for common chronic illness myths. I have a chronic illness and have heard these all. The one I dislike the most is “Chronic Illness is not real and it is in your head”. Thanks for sharing these myths and truths.

  7. I wish medical doctors would take heed of this same advice. I have chronic allergies all the time. I get sinus infections at least every other month. But, I’ve had an allergist tell me it was all about losing weight. I just felt like saying what the heck are you talking about?

  8. Great way to bring the honest message of people who suffer from chronic illness and disease. I used to suffer from panic attacks and literally I felt like I was gonna die! It was so scary and surprise there is no real cure because its a mental thing…well it doesnt feel very mental when you are going through it and before I had it, I used to think people were exaggerating. You never know until it happens to you, so yes we as people need to be more empathic not just to illnesses that you can see, but to the ones who are hiding it every day!

  9. Comment by: Stephen Walker

    Hi Chantal,

    I have MS, a chronic illness and you are SO right.

    I am not lazy, but I suffer from fatigue. I am in near constant pain and I am NOT overweight AND I was raised by parents and grandparents who suffered in silence.

  10. I have Lyme disease. I have had it for 28 years. I became very ill about ten years ago. It was then I became an advocate for the chronically ill when I myself saw what was going on around me. I promised that I would help others and began to create a place where healing of the mind and body can begin. Our lives are not taken from us by illness, they just alter. So I am calling it Aloha Farm because the real meaning of Aloha is “Love, Peace, and Compassion”. I hope to have it up and running in a couple years.
    If long term illness has taught me anything it has taught me that my life has meaning, that I can have dreams and I am here to help others.


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