What Is an Invisible Disability?

So, what is an invisible disability? Well, not all disabilities are visible outwardly, initially, or in ways, one might assume.  For example, you might not notice someone else has chronic pain, especially if you don’t know them or they didn’t share this information with you.

As an example, here’s a short invisible disabilities list. Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive or complete. It’s not intended to exclude or elevate specific conditions, but rather to act as an introduction to a complicated and nuanced subject:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Autism
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Food Allergies and Digestive Syndromes
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Personality Disorders
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hidden disabilities can each present in a varied way, and certainly vary per individual. It isn’t the mission of this article—or appropriate for your workplace—to diagnose, analyze, or come to conclusions about someone’s wellness or health. Instead, we can listen and make ourselves more aware.

Because invisible disabilities are rarely outwardly apparent, it’s very important to be informed and sensitive to the reality of this population and their wellness.

Awareness is important. If we understand that not all disabilities are visible this insight can help us craft a more inclusive, compassionate, and accessible workplace.

Not knowing doesn’t excuse offensive behavior nor does not see anything wrong. Instead, educating yourself on these topics can help further sensitivity. If you know of the subject of invisible illness and disability, you’ll be better armed to respond in an empathetic and respectful manner.