An estimated nearly 24 million Americans living with a diagnosed autoimmune disease. It's very likely someone you care about has been affected by one of the conditions that make up this category. What's more - autoimmunity in the United States may be rising.
Having a chronic condition can affect every aspect of a person's life. There are taxing physical effects and the emotional toll of not being able to rely on their body. Autoimmune disease symptoms can include pain, fatigue, swelling, digestive discomfort, disrupted sleep, brain fog, and more.
Often, people with an autoimmune disease change their lifestyle as they navigate the limitations of their bodies. These lifestyle changes may include difficulty committing to plans, avoiding certain activities, and disrupting regular home, work, or social responsibilities.
Watching your friend, family member, or partner work through day-to-day discomforts can be difficult. Have you felt hopeless and unsure how to provide the right kind of help? Having lived with autoimmune diseases for over 15 years, I'd like to share the top three ways to support someone with an autoimmune disease.
Support Someone with an Autoimmune Disease Through Active Listening
So often, people want to help and share the latest research or even hearsay. They might relay what helped their neighbor, what they read on social media, or what they heard on a podcast. Yes, this type of advice has a time and place. However, the value of having someone attentively and actively listening to what you're experiencing is priceless.
Refrain from judging, offering advice, or problem-solving. Instead, practice being present with the intent of listening rather than thinking of a response. Of course, you want to help, but sometimes being a listening ear is all that's needed!
Support Someone with an Autoimmune Disease by Building Trust
Autoimmune symptoms can be invisible to an outsider, but their impact is real. Everyone manifests illness in different ways. Providing helpful emotional support for people with autoimmune diseases includes validating their experiences.
You may not personally understand what is happening in someone's body, but believing what they share with you builds trust. Being validated is powerful and can provide peace and comfort during physical and emotional uncertainty.
Support Someone with an Autoimmune Disease by Asking How to Help
Knowing whether your loved one with autoimmunity needs help can be challenging. Simply put, the best way to support a person with an autoimmune disease is to ask what you can do for them. When you've provided an empathetic ear and built a foundation of trust, helping becomes more effortless.
A person struggling with autoimmunity symptoms may need assistance with tangible tasks like grocery shopping or cleaning. It's important to remember that everyone's needs are unique in facing autoimmunity. Honor where they are in their journey and what they need without judgment.
As you work to best offer your special someone autoimmune disease support, I hope you'll incorporate these three suggestions. Their journey will be a smoother one by being listened to, having someone to trust, and being helped.