20 Things Not to Say to an Ill Person

When you have an invisible illness, some things people say can hurt.

Even when people have good intentions when they say things to someone with an illness, it can come out all wrong.

Join us for 20 tips in 20 days on what NOT to say to someone who is ill – Follow us @invisibleillwk and please RT! #iiwk

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #1 – You look so good today! – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #2 – You just need to get out of the house more – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #3 – If you stop thinking about it, the pain will go away – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #4 – You should just pray harder – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #5 – You must not want to get better if you won’t try this – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #6 – When I was your age I didn’t have the luxury of being sick – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #7 – You’re sick again?? – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #8 – I wish I could just sit around all day – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #9 – No pain, no gain! – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #10 – I’d be sick too if I saw doctors as much as you do – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #11 – I have this juice that is working wonders… – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #12 – You must still have sin in your life – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #13 – If you got a job you’d have something else to think about – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #14 – Your illness is caused by stress – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #15 – You can’t be in that much pain. Maybe you just want attention – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #16 – What have you done to make God so mad at you? – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #17 – There are easier ways to get attention – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #18 – It’s not good for your kids to always hear you whining – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #19 – When are you going to get rid of that cane? – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo

#iiwk -Things NOT to say to an ill person #20 – I’m so glad to see you out and about feeling all better – see more http://ow.ly/eYpo


  1. diane says

    oh man…made me cry…i’ve heard so many of these comments…people thinking they are helping and making it worse…with my depression…thank u for sharing this list with everyone…i’m passing it on to some of my support group…

  2. Shantell says

    The things not to say to ill people was great! I have heard almost everyone of those, and sometimes you feel like you want to just kick them in the shins…if you could..lol

    • says

      I have read the things not yo say to ill people and I learned a lot myself. I have RSD and seizures (uncontrolled) on three seizure meds (my doctor has ordered med levels) I used to have a boyfriend and after having a seizure (when they were not so violent) and I was in the post ictal period; headache; disoriented, nauseated and feeling drained, he’d say “well you look ok” UGH! just get me to bed, I would sleep for 3-4 hours; he just was not understanding at all. And every time I go to the Pain Management Doctor, the first thing I hear very cheerfully is ” Hi Debbie! Your looking good today! as I sit there waiting to see the Doctor while I’m in massive pain; I can remember the first time I went there; one of the first questions was ” whats the cane for? as I thought to myself, thank GOD I’m not in the wheelchair any more; which I was for months and months and months! I told the doctor that I am constantly freezing and have a hard time staying warm which is one of the symptoms of RSD and she said maybe we should do some blood work; previously done and in my chart already, my hematocrat and hemoglobin were normal as usual and makes me wonder just how educated these doctors are about RSD. I have marrow edema im my foot and ankle traveling up my leg; therefore preventing healthy new red blood cells from forming in both my feet and ankles and on one of my visits because my feet and ankles keep worsening with discoloration because of the the lack of healthy new red blood cells forming, I asked the Doctor to look at my feet; since this is where the RSD started, she looked at me and asked why? I felt like a deer in headlights !!! Because every time I go, I tell her how I am feeling, any new changes in case they might need to make a med changes etc… They never look at my feet unless I ask and she agreed that yes they were very dark since the last time they were looked at and suggested that I take pictures and bring them to the office to put in my file. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not have insurance and pay $ 187.50 for each monthly visit of 10 minutes, you would think that they could at least take a picture for me. I am disabled, on disability, paying for fentanyl patches, taking morphine four times a day, I have uncontrolled seizures which I am also paying for 3 seizure meds and I have to take a taxi every where and be able to take care of all other bills. I’m sorry I started out being thankful for the list and ended up venting, Please forgive :( Debbie

  3. says

    I have lived with Ankylosing Spondylitis for over 10 years, and I’m sick of it. I mean.. granted.. I thank God I have a free insurance called MSI. It’s provided for people who live in the Orange County area. I went 2-3 years without insurance, and was very close to taking my life due too the pain, and no help. I now get the medications I need, but still unable to hold a job, full time or part time.
    As you can probably tell I’m an extreme case of AS, and I would have no idea how people could live with no help, physical or mental.

    I pray for those of you who do live with AS, that are EXTREME AS patients and hope you can get help some way or another. Especially those who don’t have people to help them with money and such.

    thank you,

    Ty Mueller

    PS. I have heard many of the quotes mentioned in the “20 things you don’t tell a sick person” It’s very sad, and was a part of the attempt to take my life thing.

  4. says

    this is a real conversation I had with someone yesterday, I kid you not!

    him- how are you? how is your pain? all better?
    me – I’m ok

    what else do you say? I totally was NOT ok but how do you drill it into peoples heads that chronic pain is….well…..chronic! it’s not going away peoples!! stop asking me if I’m all better!

    the pain doesn’t change much, just how I cope with it does! if I’m tired or if I’ve done a lot during the day then i’m not going to be able to cope as well!

    I wish docs would start treating chronic pain as aggressively as they treat cancer or diabetes. the “if I can’t see it, it must not exist!” mentality is killing people and robbing them of productive lives!

    whew! thanks for the rant!
    may God bless you all!

  5. GMRKitty says

    I’ve heard all of these & more. Things like “You just need to get more exercise”. Or, from my grandpa (he’s into Dr. Weil & all these herbal OTC supliments etc.) “Hey, I just read about this new {Wonder Drug} that says that it’ll help you”..

    LOL – Oh well. usually, it’s just because people don’t understand and it makes them uncomfortable. So they try to put it off as something light so that they don’t have to deal …. *shruggs* …..a great article to read is “The Spoon Theory” – check it out on http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com love the site – Christine has Lupus and fully understands Invisible Illnesses.

    Anyways, thanx for the article I liked it ^..^

  6. says

    Wow. I’ve heard all of these except #19 (probably because I don’t use a cane). I know people mean well, but seriously … what are they thinking?!

    A specialist I saw after I’d been sick for 18 months told “just try to push through it.” Uh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that before, thanks. Never mind that “pushing through it” just sends me into a flare so bad I end up in the hospital. Grrrrr!

    Thanks for the list. I shared it on Facebook!

  7. says

    Unfortunately I’ve heard most of these too.

    I was a healthy person until 50 now non stop problems. But God works all things for good. Romans 8:28 I have
    learned what not to say to sick people!

    I have constant pain now from bone marrow shots- I try not to let anyone know but sometimes its hard to hide.

    “Either Way I Win” is a good book- here is a free inspiring excerpt – will give anyone facing cancer or any difficult time life-giving hope http://budurl.com/EitherWay

    This time on earth is but a whisp. One day we will run in heaven!

  8. says

    Oh, I could write for hours on this topic. I have heard all of these things too & they really break my heart. As the spouse of a person with an invisible illness, it is the same issue. People say things like “at least you get to spend everyday with each other, I never get to see my spouse, so why are you upset?”

    People who do not care for someone with an illness/disability or those who have never had one themselves, say all the wrong things and imply we are looking for excuses to not work, etc.

    “Push through it” I’ve heard that too. Speaking of specialists, I knew something was terribly wrong with my husband years before the diagnosis and a neurologist actually told me that, “Perhaps, you need a psychiatrist to combat this fruitless search for answers.”

    A nurse in an emergency room suggested that I was the one who needed anti-anxiety meds & to stop bringing my husband to the ER.

    All I wanted was help for my husband. We finally got it, but it took 14 years!

    It is everywhere though….My daughter was born with severe bi-lateral clubbed feet. She was in plaster casts from birth for months after. Everytime I took her out of the house, I heard “What did you do to your baby?” As if, we harmed her somehow. I never heard..how cute she was, nor a “oh,is she OK?” Only accusations.

    • Marcia Murray says

      I also had a child with a large bithmark on her face. I cannot count the times I heard, ” What did you do to your baby.” People are so cruel.

  9. L. Morgan says


    Unfortunately, I’ve heard many of these comments. In fact, one of my latest Blog posts touched on this, and I’ve been talking to my Mom about insensitive comments that people are not even aware they are making. For there to be an actual list, I totally see that I HAVE NOT been totally sensitive to these things. Thanks for this list. It made me laugh and it was right on time! Maybe I’ll pull the list out at the doctor’s office one day when they’re being especially insensitive. Hopefully, I won’t have to go there…

  10. says

    I am in severe neuropathic pain after possible duct damage during gallbladder removal/radical hysterectomy from stage4 endometriosis in 2008 & cannot take hormones due to blood clot disorder. Also, have autoimmune problems, common variable immunodeficiency, 2 intratrial aneurysms/small PFO, a 6 year old nonstop mixed headache(migraine/tension/cluster symptoms) inflammatory and osteo arthritis & suspected Behcets/Sjogrens. My new pain management doc told me yesterday to learn to live with the pain, there are no answers/i wont get better,he doesn’t know what is wrong though he knows I am in pain. He seemed unlikely increase my meds as tolerance continues. Then he tells me the story of a relative who had metastatic brain cancer, despite obvious pain she never complained or took a pain pill and worked till the day she died, even with an eye patch. I am 43years old and he sure doesn’t make me want to reach 44. I feel like a giant turd.

  11. says

    Love these! I’ve learned – as a heart attack survivor with ongoing cardiac issues – to carefully pick and choose who I tell The Truth to. Most folks get a pleasant “fine thanks!” I remember my Dad’s poem:

    “Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion
    ‘How are you?’ is a greeting – not a question!”

    Most people are well-meaning. They simply don’t know quite what to say. More on this at: “You Look Great! And Other Things You Should Never Say to Heart Patients” at http://myheartsisters.org/2009/06/01/you-look-great/


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