How To Help Someone With An Invisible Disability


The Law Of…Avoiding Judgement

There are around 11 million people living with a life limiting condition, disability or impairment in the UK. Of that number, 74% don't use a wheelchair or walking stick. These people have what is known as an invisible disability and don't have any visible physical signs that they are disabled.

It is common for people suffering from invisible disabilities to receive a lack empathy when out and about, making their disability even more difficult to deal with.

Anna Thompson, Personal Injury lawyer, explains what people with invisible disabilities could be dealing with and how you can help them.

What Disabilities Are Classed As Invisible?

There are various disabilities that could be difficult or impossible to spot in another and it is important not to make assumptions about anyone’s health when you first come across them. Just because someone is not using an aid to walk, does not necessarily mean they are not in pain, exhausted or feeling somewhat isolated because of their disability.

The following are examples of invisible disabilities:


Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that leaves survivors of the condition with severe pain in many different areas of the body and some also suffer from depression, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is anxiety caused by stressful, frightening or distressing situations. It is caused by the survivor experiencing an event that was particularly traumatic and can include symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of isolation and insomnia.

Chronic Pain Syndrome

Survivors of accidents can be left with what is known as chronic pain syndrome. This diagnosis will usually be made if the pain felt leads to secondary complications such as trouble sleeping or inability to function normally on a day-to-day basis.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome is usually triggered by an injury that the results in pain that is much more severe and long lasting than the usual discomfort felt after an accident. It is possible for survivors to have ultra-sensitive skin, where it is painful even to be touched lightly.

It is important to remember that this is an extremely small pool of examples of invisible disabilities. The category has thousands of specific illnesses and diagnosis included.

Invisible disabilities have symptoms that are difficult to detect on first glance such as:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Pain
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Mental disorders
  • Hearing and eyesight impairments

How Can I Help Someone With An Invisible Disability?

One of the best tips to remember when meeting new people or around strangers is not to judge by appearances. Invisible disabilities are just that and so it is possible for you to come across someone with a disability and to never know.

People with disabilities often need extra help when out and about. It is possible that they will need to prepare well in advance for trips out and plan carefully to ensure the right access arrangements are in place. They may need to use disabled toilets, take a lift up and down floors and take regular breaks from whatever activity they are taking part in.

Here are a few things you can do to help those with invisible disabilities:

Anna comments:

"Awareness surrounding the difficulties of invisible disabilities is increasing but not quickly enough. To have a disability in the first place is hard enough, but to then be questioned and harassed for the key to the disabled toilet is embarrassing and humiliating."

"Education and awareness is the key to this issue. People need to be reminded that wheelchairs and walking sticks aren’t the only indication of a disability. They also need to realise that they may never get 'proof' of a disability and that has to be okay."

"London Transport's idea for a visible badge to be worn by people who really need a seat on public transport is a great idea. It's sad to find that people suffering from disabilities are finding that it doesn't work as much as they'd hoped. Perhaps with more awareness, ideas like this could truly make a difference to those with invisible disabilities."

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