An invisible disability refers to a mental, sensory, neurological and/or physical limitation that can not be identified by “physically “observing the disability. The disability itself, is not physically observable so that family, friends, co-workers and other people who meet a person with an invisible disability would not be aware that a disability is present. Some examples of hidden disabilities are:
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Seasonal effective disorder
Living with a hidden disability can have a huge impact on a person’s self-esteem and stress levels. In our “evidenced- based” society, if we can’t see it (the disability) we think it doesn’t exist. When people with invisible disabilities exhibit behaviours that are the manifestation of their disabilities, they are often met with judgmental, shaming and invalidating comments from those around them, even their loved ones. The unsuspecting people may make comments about symptoms of the hidden disability which get attributed to character flaws. For example, for someone living with the invisible disability of anxiety, a person may receive comments that they should learn to “calm down” or “take a pill” to settle. A person with ADHD may be told that they are rude because they “interrupt” people or told to just “focus and pay attention”. In both these cases the behaviour is the symptom of the invisible disability. In this cycle the affected person is twice hit – once by the disability and twice by the observations, comments and criticisms that they receive from the outside world often contributing to secondary hidden disabilities such as anxiety and depression.
The comments made by the outside observers make the incorrect assumption that the behaviour associated with the disability can just be “stopped”. That the continuance of the behaviour represents a character flaw of the person with the disability. Over time, the affected person starts to believe that they do in fact have a character flaw. A good psychotherapist can help provide the support, strategies and sometimes treatment (depending on the nature of the hidden disability) and provide you with an affirming environment for your Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, ADHD and/or any of other hidden disability that may be present
If you suffer from a hidden disability, it is important to get help from a good therapist. I am a Registered Psychotherapist and I regularly provided treatment and support for people living with ADHD, Trauma, Anxiety and other invisible disabilities. Please contact me for support and treatment.