4 Ways To Explain Your Invisible Vestibular Illness To Loved Ones

One of the most heartbreaking issues I have seen dizziness, vertigo and balance patients struggle with is the way people around them cannot really understand what they’re going through.


Because there aren’t any visible outward signs to vestibular disorders, and it’s hard for sufferers to describe what they’re experiencing. Feeling off-balance, spinning, disoriented, brain foggy, swaying… to the uninitiated, that could mean anything!

A loved one or friend should know that the nature of a vestibular disorder is often misunderstood by doctors and other health professionals, which makes compassion even harder to come by.


“But you look normal…”

Very likely, the people around you have never experienced a balance disorder, let alone know someone who has. Bursts of brief, even split-second vertigo attacks or what some patients describe as “jolts” can shock a person’s nervous system so intensely it can spike an extreme anxiety response. The person may just be sitting and simply watching TV or having dinner, then have an episode.


When this occurs, those around might think or even say unhelpful things — it’s just in your head, you must be stressed, it’s all psychological, you’re making this up for attention — leaving you feeling alone with your symptoms.


But the judgment you feel from others is just a natural reaction to something they can’t relate to. A broken leg is easy to see and understand. A broken vestibular system? Not so much. So, take a deep breath, and teach.


4 Ways To Explain Your Condition


1. When you hear, “It’s all in your head,” say this: YES, it is all in my head, however, not in the way you think. It’s actually in my inner ear, which is located in my head, along with the pathways in my brain that connect to my eyes, ears and body and give me a sense of time and space.


2. When you hear, “I don’t know what a vestibular system is,” send them a link to WUZI’s About Dizziness section.


3. When you hear, “I’ve never heard of Vestibular Balance Training,” show them the videos and resources on VEDA.org.


4. When you hear, “I don’t know how to help you,” tell them there are many things they can do to support your recovery:

  • Help me stay motivated to do my WUZI retraining exercises

  • Be patient with me when I need to rest and recover

  • Remind me I’ve survived this long with this condition, and that my resilience will help me overcome my condition

  • Feed me “brain food” that will help speed up my recovery

  • Remind me that my secondary symptoms — anxiety, depression, fatigue — will fade as my system gets stronger

  • Encourage me with compassion, love and kindness

When your friends and family understand what you’re going through, their love and support can make all the difference in your recovery!

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