The Psychology Behind Invisible Illnesses

by CherryBlossom on April 18, 2016 - 11:18am

Going through adolescence is hard. It is even harder with an invisible disease. For my last post, I wrote a news summary about the story of a young adult, Milly Banks, who grew up with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Fribomyaglia, two invisible illnesses. She was judged a lot and said being tired of people not believing she was ill. To make a difference in the lives of people with invisible diseases she started a project in which her leisure, photography, would help her raise awareness by taking pictures of people who didn’t look sick on the outside but were on the inside. The link below leads to the news summary explained above.

Although the news summary was very informative, more depth on the matter of invisible diseases and the psychological reasoning sick people have can be understood by reading peer-reviewed journal articles.

A journal article entitled Youth with Chronic Illness Forming Identities through Leisure written by Snelgrove, Ryan in the Journal of Leisure Research 47.1  (2015): 154-173 sheds a light on the psychology behind the behavior of teenagers with chronic illnesses. This Journal article is composed of psychological analysis and real live stories from ill teenagers. The combination of both adds to the understanding of the reader and also makes the reader realize the harsh conditions these teenagers and young adults are in and hopefully leads to them being less judged.

Although this journal article is about chronic illnesses in general, since some types of chronic illnesses are invisible it clearly contributes to Milly’s story. The quote below is taken from the article and expresses why many teenagers with chronic illnesses prefer to hide their condition.

̏In some cases, when others know the existence of a person's illness there is a risk that a reputation tied to illness will develop and even become […] a "master status." That is, a person can become primarily known as a sick person above all else. […] Instead, some people attempt to act in ways that are considered normal or avoid situations that may result in suspicion of an illness.˝

Since appearances are very important during adolescence, many teenagers with chronic illnesses develop depression because they do not fit in physically due to a certain handicap or because of their weight due to their illness.

More research has been made on the subject of adolescence and chronic illnesses. If you are interested in reading more on the issue here is the title of another very informative journal article: Chronic illness in adolescence, Boice, Margaret M . Adolescence 33.132  (Winter 1998): 927-39.