Tiny tree frog almost invisible among green plants with text overlay: Hiding in Plain Sight: Subtle Signs a Loved One May Be Living with an Invisible Illness

Hiding In Plain Sight: Subtle Signs A Loved One May Be Living With An Invisible Illness

My brother sent me this photo the other day. If you look very closely, you may be able to find the tiny tree frog hiding in there. Actually, he’s not hiding at all, but sitting out there in plain sight.

Tree Frog (2)

That’s kind of how invisible illnesses are. They’re there, but because there don’t seem to be any outward manifestations of illness, people assume everything is fine. Invisible illnesses are those that are not readily apparent to the casual observer. The person living with this type of illness may not look “sick” at all, but inside, every moment of every day may be a challenge.

I’ve heard so many stories of people who were told, “but you don’t look sick”, “you’re faking it”, or “it’s all in your head.” They want to be believed, but because there’s no glaringly obvious physical problem, they fight an uphill battle to be heard, and sometimes, to receive proper treatment.

Others get so good at hiding it that not even those who are closest to them realize how much pain they’re in. Many just hide behind masks and pretend everything is okay in an attempt to have a “normal” life (See My Mask Fell Off).

What if we could see what was going on with our loved ones? What if there was some way for us to see what was going on inside? Well, we can’t do that, but although there aren’t necessarily blatant outward signs of these types of illnesses, there are subtle clues if you look closely.

Some Subtle Signs Someone You Love May Have An Invisible Illness

  •  They don’t participate in activities they once loved.
  •  They seem restless, changing positions often.
  • They’ve become more withdrawn.
  •  You notice them pursing their lips, or wincing, with certain movements.
  • They seem to move more slowly, or take great care in the way they move.
  • Their eyes may appear more dull or tired-looking.
  • They may have a change in appetite.
  • They may find it difficult to make decisions.
  • They may make plans with you and then cancel.
  • They may seem to run out of energy quickly.
  • You may notice a change in personality.
  • They may have trouble remembering things.

Obviously, this list is not all-inclusive, and isn’t meant to be used as a diagnostic tool; rather, it can help start a conversation with your loved one if you suspect something is going on with them. You can let them know that you care, and although you may not be able to completely understand, you’re willing to learn how you can help. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

For all my fellow invisible illness warriors out there, please help me expand the list. What are some of those subtle signs you display when you’re in pain?

And to lighten it up a little, for those of you who might be wondering where the frog is…..

Tree Frog Reveal




  1. I am not the fighter, verbally, that I once was. All I needed was an invitation, “what do you think?” I was off and running! I used to have strong opinions, now, I have them but don’t want to waste my energy… BIG change for me. I have to re-blog on Stone in the Road. Excellent piece, Terri, as always! ~Kim

    1. We really do have to choose our battles, don’t we? It’s interesting how much our personalities can change from dealing with chronic illness. Thanks for sharing, for your kind words, and the re-blog. I’m honored!

  2. I love this post Terri, particularly the frog. I think that my family would say I become irrational about silly things when I am in pain…my son says I become OCD about cleanliness/housework (probably because I can’t do it) and leads to to irritability & frustration! Absolute exhaustion…& fatigue, not helped by sleep! C x

  3. A change in mood; easily frustrated. I can get really grumpy when my symptoms are bad, mostly because I am still learning how to let go of my expectations of myself. I want to be able to do everything on schedule, and that’s not possible right now.

  4. Great post. I was one of those people, told for years by Dr s that it was all in my head, pain. Now I’m in a wheelchair. Thanks for posting this.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so sorry you had to deal with the disbelief and delay in diagnosis. Hopefully by spreading awareness of invisible illnesses others won’t have to experience that. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  5. Energy is a big one for me! If I could just get over the overwhelming fatigue! And it’s the little things that cause the greatest frustration. Like typing and walking to get the mail out of the mailbox! Simple, right? Not really.

  6. Great list! Thanks for sharing. Mine would be; I become really quiet when I’m in pain or something is wrong, weather it’s psychically or emotionally. I’m usually the talkative type, so, when I am not talking my husband is quick to notice!

    1. Thanks so much, and thank you for helping me expand my list. There are so many subtle clues, aren’t there? I think it’s great that your husband is able to pick up on your pain cues too. My hubby can usually tell even when I try to hide it from him…. Thanks for visiting!

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