Atopic Anxieties: Isolation & Misunderstanding
In this series, we discuss causes of anxiety for those facing physical health conditions. Phrases in quotes are the words of our community members across various conditions on what it’s like to deal with these anxieties.
It's hard for people to understand what it’s really like to live with symptoms or side effects of a health condition or illness. Physical symptoms are easier to understand than the emotional and mental ones. For example, comments such as, “it’s not that bad,” looks of disgust, and stares are common and frustrating.
You seem fine
For many conditions, even when those symptoms are improved, the lingering anxiety of recurrence, flares, and checkups remain. You know from experience all too well how quickly health can change. As one community member said, “I fear the next big flare...this cannot last forever.”
Doctor knows best?
Commenters described not being believed by their doctors, being called a hypochondriac, or “doctors not taking me seriously.” Some doctors value certain symptoms and side effects over others. This is particularly common with pain or mental health challenges. The doc’s test results only tell part of the story, and they aren’t always able or willing to hear the rest.
One complicated and anxiety-producing reality is social isolation. In an effort to be supportive, friends and acquaintances might pressure you by inviting you out and about. Folks mentioned "not be able to really go places without worrying" and feeling embarrassed. They might not understand your discomfort with certain activities, especially those that involve exposure to triggers or awkward stares from strangers.
Social occasions can dwindle because of your need to cancel or change plans depending on your physical and mental wellbeing on any given day. Many of those who answered our prompt discussed fears like flaring and reactions. Some folks said they really discovered “who their real friends are” - the ones who make an effort to understand and appreciate their needs.
It’s important to find other people who are willing to empathize with the particular challenges you’re facing. Online spaces are one way to find a community. The following are a few tips for communicating how you're feeling to others:
- Share personal stories and articles with friends and loved ones. This can be easier than having to explain in your own words.
- Consider sharing some of the gritty details. Part of battling the stigma is opening honest conversations. "My anxiety’s bad today, can we reschedule?" or "Could we do something indoors today? Pollen is a trigger for me," deserves respect.
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?