Unfortunately, doubt is not the only uphill battle that people with “invisible illnesses” like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and arthritis have to climb. Peter Bongiorno, ND, a naturopathic physician with InnerSource Health in New York City, says that they often have to fight simply to get access to handicap services or even help from their doctor.
“Oftentimes doctors will recommend the patient visit a psychiatrist, their partners tell the patient to basically ‘learn to deal,’ and bosses and co-workers view the patient as a chronic complainer,” he says.
This lack of belief in the illness can affect people financially as well. “Some unscrupulous insurance companies use this medical confusion to avoid paying people the health and disability insurance benefits they paid for,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of Pain Free 1-2-3: A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now. “This can leave people impoverished as well as crippled.”