Perceptions of Chronic Illness

According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have one or more chronic conditions, and the World Health Organization estimates that by 2020 that number will rise even higher. Since those of us with psoriatic disease are part of this statistic, what does this mean? Well, on one hand, it means that we don’t have to feel alone in our suffering. However, on the other hand, it means that the perception that those outside the statistics have is changing.

Characterized by Headlines

It doesn’t take a very long Google search to come up with news articles about chronic disease. Usually, the headlines scream the words “preventable”, “crisis”, and “costly” in the same sentence. The media constantly finds ways to villainize us. After all, according to them, we are the reason for the rising healthcare costs (allegedly). I’m sorry, but if my psoriasis was preventable, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would have prevented it.

This negativity has seemed to spread like wildfire. We have news stations shooting B-roll of random overweight people on the street to use as a representation of the chronic disease community. Somehow obesity automatically equates with chronic disease. I won’t deny the fact that many chronic illnesses correlate with obesity, but it shouldn’t be the mascot. Chronic disease is complex, but society has boiled it down to one unnerving sentiment: you didn’t take care of yourself, and now I have to take care of you.

Loss of Compassion

I’m convinced that it is because of this mindset that I receive a double scoop of nasty looks when I walk down the street. Sure, my psoriasis is not the most attractive looking, but is it really worth a scowl? Most people that come across an injured animal will attempt to help it. This animal could have rabies for all they know, but they give it care and attention. Yet I am a itchy, painful, bleeding, scaling, miserable wreck of a man during a flare, and all I get is a look of disgust.

Now, I know this is not anything new (hello---leapers), but it feels more jarring now. Why? Because now we have acceptable and non-acceptable diseases. If you are diagnosed with cancer, there are resources and people ready to give money and help abounding. Diagnosed with a chronic condition? You should have eaten more kale.

Weakness in numbers

Part of all of this could be due to the fact that there are so many people with a chronic disease. If every other person you meet is impacted, it doesn’t seem like it is a big deal. It’s similar to the big ADD diagnosis trend of the 90s. It becomes “normal” to have the disease. But those of us that live each day with a condition that plays havoc on our bodies know it is anything but normal. There may be a lot of us, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are suffering.

What now?

So what can we do? How can we change this false perception? I have seen the most change when I become transparent. When I share the facts about my conditions, I find that I am able to get a person to understand what life is really like for me. The key is to not have a poor-pity-me attitude when telling the story. Understanding is so much more important than sympathy.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.