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Invisible Disabilities

Invisible disabilities are unseen conditions that limit a person’s ability to function, including their ability to work. Invisible disabilities can be mental, physical, or neurological, and, since they are not visible to onlookers, they can lead to inaccurate perceptions, misunderstandings, and discrimination.

Even if they are unseen, invisible disabilities can present observable symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, chronic pain, and cognitive and learning dysfunctions. Those suffering from hearing or vision loss might go undetected, but the consequences of those conditions are real. Some invisible disabilities might cause mild disruptions to daily routines, and others could be severe and completely debilitating.

There are four broad categories of invisible disabilities: mental health conditions; neurological disorders; chronic pain and fatigue disorders; and autoimmune diseases. Mental health conditions are those that affect mood, feelings, behavior, or thoughts and include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. Each mental illness carries with it its own symptoms and often involves difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.

Neurological disorders are brain disorders that include Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, brain tumors, and epilepsy, among others. These kinds of diseases can affect all areas of life, and many do not have a cure. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can also lead to neurological issues with permanent or long-term damage.

Chronic pain and fatigue disorders often go together and include irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and chronic tension headaches. Autoimmune diseases, problems with sleep, and medications can all result in chronic pain and fatigue, which can make it difficult or impossible to focus at work and elsewhere.

Lastly, autoimmune diseases occur when the body confuses ordinary body parts with foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. Instead of fighting diseases, the individual’s immune system fights itself, and the damage caused can range from just one area to the entire body. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, celiac, type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Any of these conditions can make ordinary daily activities difficult or impossible.

If you suffer from an invisible disability, it is not your obligation to prove it to people, and you are not lazy or imagining things if you can’t function in ways that non-sufferers take for granted. If your invisible disability limits your ability to work, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney to discuss what your options are.