WHAT NOT TO SAY to someone with a chronic illness

A list of what NOT to say to someone with a chronic illness:


  • You don’t LOOK sick!

  • I’m sure it isn’t that bad.

  • You should_________.

  • You should stop______.

  • I wish I could take a nap.

  • You should get more exercise.

  • You’re not old enough to be that sick.

  • If you had enough faith you’d be healed.

  • Take what my friend took and you’ll be fine.

  • Just eat this certain diet and you’ll heal yourself.



Many people don’t know what to say to someone with a chronic illness. Unfortunately, they frequently feel like they have to say something. They think they are being helpful, but end up saying things that are intrusive, upsetting, or make us feel uncomfortable. It is good to let them know when they do it so they stop.

If they don’t know what upsets you, they might keep doing it. A lot of people (even ones we don’t know) like to pass along medical advice. It’s okay to say you don’t need advice, that you and your doctor have got things covered. Sometimes friends and family might hear interesting new information about your problem and want to share it right away, but maybe you could have them send it to you in an e-mail instead of sharing it with everyone at a family gathering, or let them know you’ve done the research, and don’t need help with that right now.

It can be frustrating having people doing medical research on your behalf only to give you advice that:

  1. could actually be harmful
  2. you already know
  3. brings up personal or embarrassing issues, or
  4. is just plain wrong


Equally frustrating is having people that you don’t know (who see your cane or wheelchair, etc. when you’re out in public for example):

  1. ask deeply personal questions 
  2. ask things about your medical history that would make your doctor blush 
  3.  give you erroneous unsolicited advice

Most of them are doing it out of curiosity not meanness, and they just don’t know any better. People just want to make you feel better, and some really want to more about your disease so they can help you or just become more informed.  Remember, you live with your health issues every moment, but some people have no idea what it would be like to be sick at all.


Does the list sound right to you? Would you like others to know the things on this list without you having to say a word?  ? Have I got just the thing for you….the t-shirt! Yes, just wear the shirt with that list on it and people will understand the kind of things you’d like them to NOT say.  Click the shirt for the link to the store.

Click the pic to go to our store

YOUR CHALLENGE FOR TODAY: Think of something positive you can say when someone offers you unsolicited advice about your health.  Plan ahead so that you’re not caught off-guard and hurt.  Remember, people just don’t understand what it’s like.  Maybe you could educate them in a few brief sentences.  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

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