Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day set aside to acknowledge people with disabilities, a group that is often marginalized by society. This years’ theme is focused on disability-inclusiveness. About fifteen percent of the world’s population has some form of disability according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and among those are people with invisible disabilities.
Some disabilities are not visible to the naked eye and usually, you may never know that a person is suffering from this or that disability unless they actually inform you. These are known as invisible disabilities. Here are some you may not know about below:
1. Dyslexia: This is a learning disorder whereby one finds it difficult to read properly due to not being able to identify certain speech sounds or connect certain letters to words, etc. It can affect children with perfect vision and normal intelligence, and is a disorder that can be managed with special tutoring/education. This condition can be diagnosed in a child as young as five or a 30-year-old adult.
2. Anxiety: This is a mental health disorder that involves crippling feelings of fear, worry, and panic that can affect your daily routine. Anxiety presents itself in panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Anxiety is quite a common disorder and can be managed by medications like anti-depressants, and psychiatric counseling.
3. Autism: This disorder affects the nervous system and is caused by abnormalities in the structure of the brain. Symptoms include being unresponsive, lack of social awareness, and repetition of certain actions such as repeating a sentence over and over again, as well as not being able to speak or comprehend speech properly. This condition can be hereditary or caused by environmental factors and is incurable.
4. Arthritis: This is a condition that affects your joints. It causes inflammation of the joints paired with pain and stiffness of the inflamed joint. Arthritis gets worse as you age so it is recommended to take early and immediate action on any treatment to avoid it getting worse. Some remedies include physical therapy and surgery – advisable only if your way of life is compromised.
5. Mental illness: Mental illnesses are quite broad and are defined as any disorders that affect your mood or behavior. Some conditions include depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and psychotic disorders.
6. Epilepsy: This is a neurological disorder that can occur due to genetics or from a brain-related injury. Symptoms include seizures, loss of consciousness, extreme dizziness, and memory lapses. It is an incurable disease but can be managed with medication, or in some cases, surgery.
7. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): People with ADHD have difficulty focusing their attention on one thing. They are always hyper, impulsive, and cannot sit still for long periods. The disorder varies from mild to extreme, and can be managed through medication and therapy.
8. Lupus: This is an autoimmune illness that affects various tissues and organs in the body. Notable symptoms include heavy fatigue, fevers, weight fluctuation, rashes, and joint pain, among others. Lupus tends to appear in flare-up intervals, so constant medication is needed to manage it.
9. Lyme disease: Caused by bacteria from ticks, this disease is spread through a tick’s bite. It causes joint pain and a peculiar rash. If left untreated it can lead to arthritis and neuropathy.
10. Fibromyalgia: This is a very common disorder and mostly affects muscles and soft tissues. It is characterized by chronic muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, and problems sleeping. However, this disease does not get worse with time and can be treated easily through medication, reducing any stress around you, and therapy.
There are just a few of very many invisible disabilities that affect one in every three people all over the world. We often tend to judge what we cannot see and the people experiencing the above conditions are always sidelined because their illness does not seem ‘real’. As we continue to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let’s also remember those of us who suffer from one or two or more mental/neurological disorders – these are disabilities too.