For sufferers of chronic pain, just getting through the day can feel like an epic battle at times. And if you’re a friend who hasn’t experienced chronic pain, you might be obliviously making things worse with your well-meaning comments. Here are five things NOT to say to someone with chronic pain.
When Lucy Green was just seven years of age, she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. As an adult, she received a further diagnosis of Lupus, Anxiety and Chronic Fatigue.
For anyone suffering from chronic pain, life can be a constant battle. And like many others, Lucy has experienced her fair share of well-intended remarks that only serve to make her feel worse.
1. “But you look healthy”
Looking good is no indication of how you feel. Just because you’ve made an effort before you head out, doesn’t mean you’re not in pain.
“As someone who was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 7 and Lupus at 20, I have
consistently been told my whole life that ‘you look healthy - you don’t look that sick!” explains Lucy.
She’s even been called selfish for choosing to take a seat on a crowded train.
“It’s important to not make assumptions from what someone looks like on the outside regarding
their chronic pain,” she says.
2. “You went to an event you must be over it.”
Chronic pain can ebb and flow in severity. Some days go really well and on other days it’s
difficult to work or even just function on a basic level.
“This can be confusing for someone on the outside to understand,” says Lucy.
“There’s an assumption that if someone with chronic pain is enjoying themselves, they must be ok.
“But in addition to having ‘good days’, many people have learnt to cope with their symptoms or
unknowingly to others, have rested for days before to store up enough energy to participate.”
3. “You just need more sleep”
While those giving advice generally mean well, it can be exhausting for chronic pain sufferers to have to explain their condition repetitively, or nod and smile when they don’t mean it.
“We suggest listening, rather than giving unwarranted advice.
“It can make someone going through chronic pain feel minimised and like their chronic pain isn’t serious.
4. “Why didn’t you respond to me straight away?!”
“When someone is going through chronic pain, staying home all the time can be incredibly
Overwhelming,” explains Lucy. So, while connecting with family and friends is critical, sometimes, pain prevents that.
“Meet the person with compassion and understanding, as it may take them longer to reply than normal.
5. “It could be worse”
“Invalidating someone else’s pain is a huge no-no,” shares Lucy.
“It is rejecting that person’s right to express their pain and what they are going through, which can damage their mental health.”
Instead, approach the situation with kindness, and if you can’t say something nice or supportive, maybe it’s best to say nothing at all.