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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SAU chapter.

When you hear this term what do you think of? I’m sure your brain jumps to anxiety & depression. Maybe even ADD/ADHD or OCD possibility Dyslexia or Dyscalculia. There are so many more things that can be on this list so I want to give you some information because breaking stigmas, understanding your peers, helping those you love, etc all start with you understanding more about these. I am not giving you a full list or every detail about this topic but more of what I have experienced personally or have worked with on my journey to become an educator. 

Invisible Disabilities: in an umbrella term for disabilities that are hidden. They are not immediately apparent to others but at times they may be more noticeable due to actions. 

  • Anxiety(Social Anxiety(SAD): describe feelings of anxiety in social situations, not wanting to leave their homes, pounding heart, sweaty palms, and embarrassment. They may feel clumsy around others, want to leave social situations as quickly as possible, or like they don’t have anything to say. They may even feel physically ill around others. 
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD): is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by excessive inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are pervasive. Adult ADHD can lead to unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, low self-esteem, and other problems.
  • Bipolar Disorder: also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. 
  • Depression: Is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.
  • Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin due to the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of factors, including insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells do not use insulin effectively. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can no longer produce enough insulin to compensate for the impaired ability to use insulin.
  • Fibromyalgia: is a chronic condition, and people with it often describe symptoms of hurting all over their body and feeling constantly exhausted. 
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS): makes life miserable for those affected – an estimated ten percent or more of the population. Flatulence, constipation and diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can turn digestion into a nightmare. 
  • Migraines: Is defined as a chronic neurological disease characterized by recurrent moderate to severe headaches, often in association with a number of autonomic nervous system symptoms.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD): They may have a, ‘lucky,’ number associated with tasks, or one that is not. They may count the number of times they perform tasks, or items. They may feel a sense of shame because of these rituals, yet cannot seem to overcome them. Specific routines are something that persons with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder develop, and if they do not follow the routine they have created they may become anxious. The routines disrupt regular activities during the day. 
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD): describe traumatic experiences, followed by, ‘flashbacks,’ terror, anxiety, fear, inability to sleep or relax, and not wanting to be around others. PTSD is a disorder that starts after a person experiences a terrifying ordeal which involves either actual physical harm or the threat of it. The harm may have happened to the person themselves, or to someone the person loves; it may have happened during an event the person witnessed as well.
  • Rejection Syndrome Dysphoria(RSD): is a problem that interferes with your ability to regulate your emotional responses to feelings of failure and rejection.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI): occurs when an external force traumatically injures the brain. TBI can be classified based on severity, mechanism (closed or penetrating head injury), or other features (e.g., occurring in a specific location or over a general area). Head injury usually refers to TBI but is a broader category because it can involve damage to structures apart from the brain, such as the scalp and skull.

Website Link to more information as disabilities listed above as well as more disabilities not listed: https://www.umass.edu/studentlife/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/Invisible%20Disabilities%20List%20%26%20Information.pdf 

What it looks like: You should never assume that someone has a disability but I am going to show you a picture of me and I want you to think about what I could have based on a photo and some information I give you.

Veronica with HC Banner
Original photo by Maddie Piper

Photo: Looking at this photo would you think I have a disability?

Description #1: I struggle controlling my attention at times but I am also nervous that I am going to constantly screw something up. I worry that I am not good enough so when I ask my friends to hang out but they can’t since they have plans but ask me to come with them I feel like I can’t. I get in my head sometimes to the point where all I do is stare at the ceiling in my bed or aimlessly scroll on social media down a dark hole. Based on this what would you think I have?

Description #2: I am the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus, Delta Alpha Pi President and Sexual Assault Awareness Team Social Media chair as well as a SA Advocate. I take 18+ credits a semester along with Flute lessons. Also don’t forget I work 2 jobs! I typically get Bs for grades with As mixed in. I have made Dean’s list twice in the last few semesters. I am creative and neat but sometimes I can be messy and disorganized. I am always running around helping with so many things that people are amazed how I am still standing and making change. Based on this what would you think I have?

These two descriptions sound like two different people but they are both me. One is what I show externally and the other is who I hide on the inside. I grew up where being “different” got me made fun of and I hated myself for it so I learned how to hide what is already an “invisible” disability.  

Stigmas: People assume when they hear I have a disability that I may be slower, struggle, have priviledge or that I’m stupid but honestly I am the same person that seems so successful in Description 2. She is seen as a hard worker with a busy life so the mess is excused, the multitasking is expected, and the running around is normal. So you completely ignore the disorganization at times in ADHD, the overly neatness as OCD, the running around as the only way to keep stability, the multitasking as time management to keep off procrastination and control ADHD, not mentioning friends to avoid RSD, etc. I learned how to live with my disabilities to the point that you might not know I have them unless you truly knew me. Some people aren’t able to hide their disabilities well or at all and that does not make them less than so we should never treat them as such. 

Understand: That all people handle their disabilities differently and need different things to help them succeed. Some people use medication/treatments, or therapy, or fidgets, need breaks, strict routines or a combination of several. Everyone may need different accommodations and modifications to complete the same task as someone else. An easy way to think of this is asking a baby who only can crawl to pick up toys and putting them next to a teenager asking them to do the same task. The baby can understand what you want done but will need more time as they only crawl and can maybe only pick up one toy at a time which will take longer than the teen who can pick them all up at one time and put them away quickly.

Veronica A(V) is the Campus Correspondent at HC @ SAU. She oversees the entire chapter including editorial, events, social media, etc. Beyond HC, V is involved on campus. She is the President of DAPi. She is the Social Media Director for SAAT, and a Sexual Assault Advocate. Veronica is majoring in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in Special Education and a minor in Music. She is currently student teaching!!! In her freetime, V plays the flute and other instruments and can sing. She used to play and coach softball. Veronica was born in Florida but now lives in Illinois. She also has 2 cats at home. She was the D.E.I. Ambassador for 2 years.