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Living with a hidden disability.

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Hidden disabilities are not obviously visible to the glancing eye and as a result can provide the individual with various different complications.
Hidden disabilities encompass a range of disabilities, such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, autism and ADHD. The frustrations include wanting to be seen as an individual, but also having to accepting your differences and trying to seek the help you need.

Communicating and seeking help can be extremely difficult for someone with anxiety or autism, whom might struggle to make their point confidently or clearly enough. It is great acknowledging that you require that extra support, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming trying to arrange it. Some people may never get diagnosed whilst those that are diagnosed, may be treated unfairly if those in charge are unaware.They might just expect you to get on with a ‘simple’ task (such as answering a question), but without truly understanding your needs, this could well be your worst nightmare.

Those with a hidden (invisible) disability may experience that sympathetic feeling less often than those with a visible disability. For instance lifts and ramps are in place for wheelchair users, as their limitations are made apparent. Whereas those who have sensory impairments may require similar support of private space, such as in avoiding noisy and uncomfortable environments. Regardless of whether or not a disability is visible or invisible, it is important never to invalidate someones feelings or troubles, as they are equally important.

But how can we as a member of society conceptualize ideas for understanding these needs?

Could we enforce more testing methods in schools to search for and unearth hidden disabilities? The child and parents may even be unaware themselves. For instance Anne Hegarty, (quiz master and former I’m A Celebrity contest) was only diagnosed with aspergers syndrome in 2005 – making her 46/47 years of age at the time. This can be a confusing and stressful time without a diagnosis, as it is too easy to misinterpret one’s behaviours and feelings. The easy yet ignorant option could be to assume that the individual is poorly behaved, but this doesn’t build rapport or help them unearth their potentially justified compications.

In my opinion, all teachers and parents must be incorporated with the skills to understand hidden disabilities and the individuals who experience them. Some are congenital whilst others are acquired, which is why it is important to be appropriately equipped early on. A child and their parent must build trust with one another through understanding, which can foster their development. No one wants to be treated unfairly in society, whereas this knowledge can be beneficial in integrating a disabled person successfsuly into society.

18 thoughts on “Living with a hidden disability.”

  1. A disability isn’t always visible to the outside world. Sometimes, you’re the only person that knows what it is that you deal with on a daily basis. That can often make a person with a disability feel lonely or cut off from the people that may actually care about them. I agree that parents and teachers should understand and learn more about different disabilities. But that should also apply to people out in the world once that individual goes out into the world when they get out of school. People they work with, for instance, should learn more about that person’s disability.


  2. We just need to learn to treat people with respect, no matter what. Like you said, there are many that don’t have visible disabilities and I do think they are judged and thought of differently. I’ve read so many stories where people have been denied priority seating, closer parking etc. just because they aren’t in a wheelchair.


    1. I feel like someone with an invisible disability can be subject to such a backlash if they were to do that though, which is upsetting. They might also have severe anxiety incase that confrontation arises too, which will only make them feel more guilty and uncomfortable. They know that they are worthy of these entitlements, but may feel threatened if challenged by someone else.


  3. As someone with autism myself I’ve always had to deal with the ‘invisible disability’ stigma whilst growing up. Especially in secondary school it was quite pronounced as I only had one or two teachers I could ‘count on’ to understand me whilst the rest just thought I was a bit of a trouble maker due to my tendancy to fidget or not do work because I didnt understand and was too shy to ask. There is a lot that could be done to help this and I like to think work is on-going in this regard. I work at a college with a great understanding of these issues and how to deal with such students and many I see do go on to better things after learning how to deal with their own issues. The addition of staff that know what they’re doing also helps them maximise their own potential. It’s great. Society will wise up eventually I think, we’re making great strides in that direction from my point of view anyway.


  4. I think a lot of times we forget what other people are going through. They could be autistic with the learning issue, and some maybe having issues towards reading colors and also overweight without even eating much. I think we have to learn to be compassionate towards other people. But all of this takes years to establish.


  5. Getting pity from people, oddly enough, but not surprising, is what a lot of handicapped people – don’t want! In fact, it would be advisable to not help a wheelchair bound person often times – because they would get annoyed by it. In fact, they’re probably sick of “help offers”. Anyway, though, if something really does come up that needs help, you should help, though, even if they are resistant.


    1. That is a good point as sometimes people may be declining help that they, in fact, need, just because they may be sick of not being able to do to it for themselves. I guess it is important to communicate with the person with the disability to find out how they are feeling and what they need help with – so you’re not ‘treading on anyones toes’ so to speak.


  6. I think you make some great points in this post! As someone with a few different invisible disabilities, ranging from mental health to fibromyalgia, I really think it’s important for all people to be educated to some extent about these disabilities, especially parents, teachers, and other authority figures. I’m lucky because my father has my ailments (which sucks for both of us), but he also takes the time to talk to me to understand my needs and such. And some invisible illnesses are confusing for other reasons too: I have severe vertigo that comes as part of my fibromyalgia mixed with spinal damage- as such, I often walk with a cane to keep me steady. I have had anxiety attacks in the past because of not having my cane, and this caused severe confusion in some people, because why does someone need a cane for anxiety, right?


    1. Thank you for sharing your comments here! It is helpful to have someone to speak to about this, as I bet it is difficult to confide in someone who may not know or understand what is going on. It is difficult to tell what is going on behind closed doors most of the time.

      People can be quick to judge too, without truly knowing a situation. This is terrifying I feel. I hope people are treating you and your father kindly.


  7. You also have to realise this is your strength! It’s almost come to a point where is wasn’t recognised at all to everyone is now speaking about it and with this I feel everyone is actually being overlooked, not helped. I know people are trying to help nowadays with certain invisible disabilities and especially mental health but I think these people will never get the support they need fully, which is sad but also has so many positives for you.

    You have gone through this journey, alone. Struggled but prevailed, alone. Now you’re trying to help people in a similar situation. I would be damn proud of yourself my boy as you are a lot stronger than the average dude!


    1. Thank you so much! I try my best. I have to be strong for myself, otherwise it can get too difficult. I try my best to recognise and help simliar minded people as I would hate for them to go through similiar things that I have been through.

      You make a good point for sure. Sadly I think society will struggle to accept and understand hidden disabilities to an appropriate extent. But what we can do is love these people and appreciate them greatly, to make up for that lack of knowledge from others.


  8. I’m glad you brought up teachers but I would love for some sort of orientation for substitute teachers as well in the classroom. I was a substitute teacher for 5 years and I mostly worked at the high school level teaching art but I was called to teach the special education classes one day and found that I had no skills to really deal with it. I wanted more knowledge or notes on the students and I was fortunate to have an aide who was there long enough to help guide me at times. These were mostly autistic students at various levels. The students grew to trust me and one time they discovered that I was subbing for an art class and they demanded that I go sub for them or they would walk out. Halfway through the day I was pulled out of the art class and asked if I would switch and it confused me at first but I remembered that there are students who like routine and even having the same substitute teacher is routine.


    1. It sounds like you started to develop rapport and trust with them pretty quickly, which is amazing. You must be doing something very well as I think you were put in such a difficult position by not knowing immediately how to react. However do you feel sometimes this is a good thing? As instead of stressing too much or wondering how you are going to adapt, a more natural and immediate reaction takes your approach?


  9. I was only diagnosed formally with Aspergers which is on the Autistic Spectrum at the age of 17 through a mental health service known as CAMHS in the UK. Living with a hidden disability is nothing to be ashamed of and should definitely be treated the same as having a physical one. ASD is one of many hidden conditions that someone could have.


    1. I feel that there is a bad stigma and a lot of poor knowledge and understanding of autism. It is a spectrum and that means people with it can differ a lot and don’t all experience things the same way.

      I have heard bad things about CAMHS from almost everyone. But it sounds like it has been of some use to you to get a diagnosis. I hope this has been useful for you even at such a late age.


  10. You don’t need to explain your disability, but if you don’t have a visible disability, of course, people are going to sometimes think you aren’t. That seems obvious and self-explanatory. The alternative is simply assuming that nobody who is not disabled would ever use disabled seats. which is both objectively wrong and clearly worse for people with disabilities. Most not visibly disabled people sitting in disabled seats aren’t disabled. It seems silly to ignore this.

    I have a family member that has Cystic Fibrosis and we are only too well aware of the things being talked about here. On the surface of it, she looks well, but one of the problems she has is quite a persistent cough. This can cause problems if she goes to the theatre or anything similar – many get annoyed with her coughing. The only way of avoiding this annoyance is just not to go to such things. People are generally more patient and understanding if you look disabled! So my plea is that if someone is coughing when you are at the theatre please be aware they are suffering too. I know it is annoying to have someone cough through the performance, but at least it is only for a couple of hours. The sufferer has it all the time, even at night so rarely gets a good night’s sleep.


    1. It is awful how these things can affect people. It is so bad that it gets to that extent where they avoid social events and such. I feel very sorry for them. People are too quick to judge a book by its cover. There is more to the story than that.


  11. It’s unfortunate that many people still do not recognize hidden disabilities, including many employers in this day and age. Times have changed but not completely. There is a poor understanding of hidden disabilities. For example, I have Autism, Depression, and Anxiety disorder. If you were to meet me, you wouldn’t know unless someone spent some time with me.


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