Chronic illnesses affect more than half of the adult population in the US. They include conditions like HIV, Crohn’s disease and lupus. Close friends and family members often want to help but sometimes make comments that worsen the situation. If you are wondering what not to say to a loved one dealing with chronic pain, here are a few guidelines.
Saying they’re faking it
No one wants to be sentenced to a life of constant pain. Telling someone that they are faking a symptom is one of the most hurtful comments anyone can make. Instead of passing judgment, take your time to support your loved one by helping around the house and doing what you can to make life a little better.
Joining in the pity party
Some people who have a chronic illness like to feel sorry for themselves. Do not allow this situation to continue by focusing on the negative stuff. Try and change the conversation and talk about things that make them happy. You can start a daily journal with your loved one where you share the positive things in life to help him/her have the right perspective.
Telling them they don’t look sick
You may assume that telling someone they don’t look sick is a complement but for someone with a chronic illness, those words can be hurtful. The best you can do is to ask your loved one how they are feeling and get a response. Remember that the most basic need, not just for our loved ones with chronic pain, is to feel loved. The best way to show your concern is by asking the right questions and never say the illness is all in their head.
Acting like they are seeking attention/sympathy
A chronic illness can wear someone down. But the last thing they want from you is sympathy. Other than assuming that the person is seeking attention, try and be empathetic. Understand that the pain they are dealing is true and real. It’s only by accepting and validating what someone else is feeling that you can show compassion.
Recommending more exercise
Most people with chronic pain are forced to live a sedentary lifestyle. There are only a few forms of exercise that they can actually engage in. Not because they do not want to but because they are sick. There’s no need to remind your loved one that they are getting out of shape because of lack of exercise. Sometimes the pain can be severe and limit movement.
Passing on judgment
People with chronic illnesses are not stupid, mentally disabled or crazy, they are just sick. They are suffering from a symptom of a condition and need our love and care instead of judgment. Many of them can still do things for themselves and even enjoy their independence. Don’t assume that your loved one is weak or giving up when they are unable to do a simple activity. Sometimes your support and care is best shown by just being there and lending a hand.