Female coworker with invisible disability

Invisible Disabilities And The Battles Within

Throughout the history of civilization, there have always been things that we did not understand— things that we believed to be real but couldn’t see. Faith, love— even germs all spring to mind though we may not have always had a scientific name for them.

While the human race has come a long way from our earliest beginnings, the simple truth is that science is ever-evolving and new things are discovered every day. Just as today we may laugh at some of the ancestral medical practices of the middle ages, our descendants may one day do the same to us.

The same could also be said for the discovery and further understanding and treatment of ailments previously attributed to an imbalance of the four humors or even demons.

The New Science On Invisible Disabilities

Most recently there has been a renewed focus on debilitating illnesses and diseases that may not always visible to the naked eye or even some advanced diagnostic testing techniques available to doctors and hospitals throughout the world. These ailments have been given the term invisible disabilities.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, in simple terms, an invisible disability is considered to be a physical, mental, or neurological condition that limits one’s mobility or senses to the point where the severely impact the individual’s everyday life and activities. Unlike other disabilities, invisible disabilities are imperceptible to onlookers and therefore can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgment.

For example, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has come a long way since the 1980s when it was widely dismissed as ‘yuppie flu’ and was suspected by many health care providers of being a psychological rather than a physiological condition.” To date, there is no definitive test for CFS and it is instead considered to be diagnosed but exclusion.

Another well-known illness for which there is no definitive test to confirm its existence is fibromyalgia. The reigning Queen of Pop (disagree, if you dare) Lady Gaga, has recently (and very publicly) brought the topic of fibromyalgia front and center in the media. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has struggled with the illness for years, and though invisible— she has chosen to bravely document her struggle with its debilitating effects in the recent Netflix documentary Five Foot Two and has even been forced to cancel a number of shows on her most recent Joanne tour due to the incredible debilitating pain associated with the illness.

Mental illnesses such as individuals who struggle with Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder, and more are also considered to have an invisible disability (if the symptoms they experience are severe enough); however, in these cases there are often more definitive ways of testing and diagnosing cases.

In addition to those previously listed, below are a number of other known invisible disabilities. Please note that though extensive, this is in no way to be considered a complete list of possible invisible disabilities.

  • Allergies
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • Food allergies
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Hereditary Fructose Intolerance
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Personality disorders
  • Primary immunodeficiency
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schnitzler’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spinal Disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Female smiling engaging in self-care but battling invisible disabilityTesting The Odds

According to Disabled World, it is estimated that approximately ten percent of Americans have been diagnosed with a medical condition that could be labeled as an invisible disability. “Ninety-six percent of people with chronic medical conditions live with a condition that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn’t have a medical condition. About twenty-five percent of them have some type of activity limitation, ranging from mild to severe; the remaining seventy-five percent are not disabled by their chronic conditions.”

It has been estimated by the National Council on Disability that one out of every four Americans will be diagnosed with a long-term disability within their working careers. Could your family afford for you to be out of work for an extended period of time while you recover?

If you wish to receive more information about how you can safeguard your financial future in the event you are diagnosed with a long-term disability, please visit your association page or www.memberbenefits.com/ltd/ to receive an instant quote, to view our complete Long-Term Disability Insurance brochure, download an application, or schedule an appointment with one of our licensed Benefits Counselors.

young African American lawyer with disabilities in wheelchair smiling thoughtfully out the window

Lawyers With Disabilities Battle More Than We Think

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a lawyer with a disability? And no, Netflix’s legally-blind Daredevil “Matt Murdock,” doesn’t count.

For years it has been touted that prior to the age of retirement, one out of every four working-age Americans will become diagnosed with a Long-Term Disability at some point in their career. So, if that is true, how is it that there are so few lawyers with disabilities?

Not All Disabilities Are Visible

When we initially think of a disability, our mind immediately tends to gravitate towards those in wheelchairs or walking with a cane, but there are a number of disabilities that are invisible to the eye but can be every bit as difficult to manage.

According to the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) roughly 1 out of every 10 Americans is recorded as having a severe disability— in today’s numbers, that translates to 32.57 million people. In the nineties it was found that out of those 1 in 10 Americans with disabilities over 74% of them did not use any assistive devices making their disability invisible to strangers.

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man diagnosed with long term disability contemplating future

5 Most Common Long-Term Disability Claims

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, it is estimated that one out of every four Americans will find themselves diagnosed with a disability prior to retiring at the age of 65. Additional studies show that less than half of individuals and families have enough money saved to sustain their living expenses for even one month before feeling the financial strain— illustrating that a long-term disability diagnosis can not just be devastating for the individual but also financially devastating for their entire family.

In short, no one plans to become disabled. And yet, it can happen to anyone at any time and the chances of it happening only increase with age, lifestyle choices, and even the type of work we do on a daily basis.

Popular Long-Term Disability Claims

But while the majority of people may imagine someone who struggles with a long-term disability as wheelchair bound, the fact of the matter is that long-term disabilities can manifest in a host of different ways— some visible, some not.

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man with long-term disability insurance and his son at a park

The Underestimated Value of Long-Term Disability Insurance

For many, the thought of investing in a long-term disability insurance policy may sound like an unnecessary expense. It is estimated that roughly 86 percent of Americans have desk jobs, therefore it is easy to understand why they might be under the impression that they have little to no chance of becoming disabled during the course of their career. This is a potentially dangerous mistake.

The Odds of Needing Long-Term Disability Insurance

While it is true that those who work more labor-intensive jobs may have an increased risk of becoming injured or disabled at some point in their careers, those who work in office settings also have at least a one in four chance of the same thing happening to them.

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Services estimated that there were 1,153,490 cases of work-related injuries and illnesses that resulted in missing days from work. This statistic can be scary for both businesses and individuals alike. And while most states mandate that every business with one of more employees must have workers’ comp. insurance, what happens when workers’ comp. and social security disability benefits just aren’t enough?

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Three Reasons Professionals Don’t Insure Their Income (But actually should)

A professional’s ability to work and earn an income is most likely his or her most valuable financial resource. With a 25% chance of becoming disabled before retirement1, Disability Insurance is a vitally important way for professionals to replace a portion of their income if he or she can’t work for several months or more due to a disability. So why do so many professionals not have Disability Insurance?

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