When Sickness Meets Abuse: The Invisible Wound and How to Heal

Being verbally abused when you are ill is more common than you might think. Moreover, it is a damaging psychological reality.

8 mins read
When Sickness Meets Abuse: The Invisible Wound and How to Heal

No one wants to be sick, but when an illness strikes and wears you down, you need support from those around you. After all, your recovery benefits from the understanding, closeness and care offered by those around you. However, this basic rule is not always followed and sometimes it is possible to be verbally abused when you are ill.

If you are subjected to verbal abuse from your partner, family or colleagues when you are ill, you will be interested to know that this is not an isolated phenomenon. Indeed, many people have to deal with chronic illnesses or mental disorders and find themselves on the receiving end of cruel words every day, combined with a lack of empathy and even violent lack of communication.

“You’re always the same”. “Just an excuse to get attention”. “You are useless”. These are some simple examples of what you might hear on a daily basis if you experience verbal abuse when you are ill. Unsurprisingly, this kind of violent communication makes your pain worse.

Verbal harassment when you are sick

Some diseases are invisible. They are conditions that do not cause fever or involve broken bones or bandages. However, we live in a society that only cares about the visible, not the silent illness. This explains why conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, migraines, rare diseases or mental disorders are so little understood.

For example, if you have a thyroid problem and find it difficult to keep up with your work day, you may be stigmatized as weak. Or if you have a musculoskeletal problem, it can also condition and limit your life and lead to misunderstandings. Even if you have the flu, you can experience verbal abuse.

This often happens because when you feel sick and weak, it is easier to be the target of manipulation and emotional abuse. Personality factors also have an impact. For example, violent communication is typical for people with low empathy, narcissistic traits or those who are aggressive and want to use power over others.

If you are worried that you may be a victim of violent communication, here are some indicators that you are being abused by those around you.

Verbal abuse by spouses or family members when you are sick is the most harmful kind. In fact, it has serious effects on your mental health.
Verbal abuse by spouses or family members when you are sick is the most harmful kind. In fact, it has serious effects on your mental health.

Characteristics of this type of psychological abuse

When you are sick, you need empathy, compassion and support from others. But perhaps you have encountered someone who, far from understanding you, has attacked you. Abuse in these situations manifests itself in many ways. You need to know how to recognize it. Here are the signs:

  • Your environment minimizes your illness. They may even question it, saying things like, “It’s nothing. You are trying to be the center of attention again”.
  • The abuser may blame you for your physical or mental condition. They may say things like “It’s your fault you have the flu” or “You are depressed because you are weak and you misunderstand everything”.
  • The abuser ignores or even denies your condition. They may say, “There is nothing wrong with you, so go back to work”.
  • They may gaslight you. This means that they make you believe that you invented the disease because you are unbalanced. “You don’t have fibromyalgia. You are making it up like your mother”.
  • They belittle and humiliate. They might say, “Look at you, you’re pathetic”.

Effects of abuse

  • To date, this kind of abuse has not been much researched. But the impact of social support on all kinds of diseases is known. Research conducted by the University of Utah (USA) claims that we currently do not know what mechanisms lie behind the fact that when we suffer from any disease, our well-being benefits from the support of our environment. However, the data is clear.

    In fact, mortality is reduced when there are valuable connections with others. Also, the patient’s quality of life improves. But what happens if you are attacked and criticized in the midst of a physical or mental health problem?

  • Psychological abuse in the midst of an illness makes you feel more vulnerable.
  • Your condition may worsen. You may lose interest in continuing treatment or stop seeking medical help. Your emotional health is undermined by mental abuse.
  • Feeling criticized, rejected and attacked in the midst of an illness increases your feelings of loneliness and discomfort with the situation.


Being abused when you are ill is a common phenomenon. As a rule, people who underestimate and attack you when you have a health problem may show narcissistic traits. The University of Wollongong (Australia) conducted a study on the impact of living with a pathological narcissist.

These are people who underestimate and victimize others, lack empathy and exhibit vengeful traits. When you are sick, they are offended by your vulnerability and react aggressively because they lack the means to show compassion.

They can also exhibit contradictory behavior. For example, one day they take care of you, but the next day they don’t even take a medicine for you.

What can you do if you are verbally attacked when you are sick?

Whether it is a chronic illness, depression or a simple cold, everyone deserves and needs understanding, empathy and help when they are not feeling well. Therefore, if you are being verbally abused when you are sick, this is a form of violence. Therefore, it is not allowed. If you are in this kind of situation, it is worth thinking about the following:

  • Your health is the most important thing. Prioritize it and always do what you need to do. If you need a doctor, go to the doctor, if you need rest, do it, no matter what those around you say.
  • Get the support you deserve. If the abuser is your partner, relative or friend, contact someone who can help you and who understands and respects you.
  • Make a decision about the people who abuse you. Because they will probably do it in other situations.

Finally, in these moments of vulnerability you need others even more. You deserve valid support. It is an indisputable basic principle of humanity. So make sure you surround yourself with compassionate and empathetic people and don’t forget to offer the same help to others.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.


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