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10 Gifts Not to Get People With Health Conditions This Holiday Season

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It’s that time of year again — that joyous, festive season when we’re all scrambling to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones. If you have a family member or friend with a health condition, figuring out what to gift them for the holidays can be extra challenging, especially if you want to give them something condition-specific or avoid buying a gift they may not be able to use. Here are 10 gifts not to give loved ones with health conditions this year — and which gifts you can look for instead.

1. Anxiety: Stress Ball

If you know your loved one struggles with anxiety, buying a pack of stress balls may seem like an excellent gift to help them reduce stress, but anxiety is often far too complex for a stress ball to relieve. Though stress balls may help some people with anxiety de-escalate, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all anxiety-reliever, and they may not fully calm the psychological effects of an anxiety disorder. Instead, knowing what specifically helps your friend with anxiety cope and making a self-care box that addresses those specific needs may give your anxious friend some much-appreciated relief during the holiday season and beyond.

Alternative: Box filled with self-care gifts


2. Depression: Positive Affirmation Book

A book full of positive affirmations may seem like the perfect holiday present for your friend with depression, but it may actually come across as invalidating. Some people with depression might appreciate positive affirmations, but some affirmations may cross the line into “toxic positivity” or mindsets that are unrealistic for someone who lives with depression. Instead, your family member or friend with depression might appreciate a meal delivery gift card — depression can make “simple” tasks like preparing food extremely difficult, and getting food delivered can help your friend with depression take care of their needs.

Alternative: DoorDash or GrubHub gift card


3. Autism: Puzzle Piece Clothes or Jewelry

If you have a basic understanding of autism, you might know that puzzle pieces seem to be a symbol of autism spectrum disorder and think that your autistic friend would love some puzzle piece accessories. However, puzzle pieces are a controversial representation of autism because they imply that people on the spectrum are missing pieces and/or “puzzling” and are prominently associated with Autism Speaks, an organization that seeks to “cure” autism instead of accepting autistic people as individuals. If you’d like to gift a proudly autistic loved one some symbolic clothing or jewelry, look for items with the rainbow infinity symbol — a symbol created by autistic people for autistic people.

Alternatives: Embrace Neurodiversity Decal, Autistic Pride T-shirt, Autism Infinity Stim Necklace


4. Eating Disorders: “Diet” Holiday Treats

The holidays are full of delicious food and rampant talk about weight and diet — which can present huge challenges for people with eating disorders. While it may be tempting to give all of your loved ones low-fat or sugar-free treats this year, this type of messaging on food packaging can be extremely triggering for people with eating disorders. Instead of choosing food-related gifts, giving your loved one in eating disorder recovery a journal provides them with a space they can use to process their emotions without turning to their disorder, safely distract when they feel like engaging in behaviors, or create a “food journal” if their dietician asks them to log their meal plan compliance.

Alternative: Journal


5. POTS: Bottle of Wine

Wine has always been a mainstay holiday gift, but this holiday season, it’s important to remember that not everyone can safely drink. People with POTS experience heart rate fluctuations and often need to stay hydrated more than someone whose heart isn’t orthostatic, so drinking isn’t necessarily safe for everyone with the condition. Instead, ask your friend with POTS what they most appreciate on days when their heart rate is the last stable, and make a gift basket with all of their favorite things. A cozy blanket or some candles for a relaxing self-care day are great options for those days when their POTS symptoms feel the least manageable.

Alternatives: Hydration Water Bottle, Cozy Blanket, Aromatherapy Candle Set


6. Endometriosis: Coffee Shop Gift Card

Many people love any reason to grab a cup of coffee, but some conditions, like endometriosis, worsen with a high caffeine intake. Caffeinated drinks can exacerbate endometriosis pain and cramping because they are highly acidic, so if you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone with endometriosis, a coffee shop gift card may not be the best way to go. If you’re looking to get your friend with endometriosis a gift card, a gift card for a relaxing massage can help them carve out some time to loosen up their muscles after a long bout of cramping and recouping in bed.

7. ADHD: Planner

If your friend has ADHD and struggles to stay organized, you may think that a planner would be a great gift to carry them into the new year, but planning with ADHD often isn’t as simple as having a space to make a to-do list. Many people with ADHD find workarounds for their attention challenges and hyperactivity, so a conventional planner may not be the best solution. Instead, some desk fidgets may be an excellent gift to help your friend release some of their energy so that they can accommodate their needs both at home and in the office.

Alternatives: Fidget Jewelry, Kinetic Desk Toys


8. Deafness/Hard of Hearing: Movies Without Closed Captions

Most people love movies, but if your deaf loved one is a movie buff, don’t purchase a movie without carefully looking into whether or not it’s accessible to them. Many deaf people watch movies with closed captions, but not every movie has subtitles available. If you decide to get a deaf or hard-of-hearing family member a movie for the holidays, make sure it comes with closed captioning or subtitles so that your loved one can truly get in on all of the action! A closed-captioned movie series and some delicious movie snacks could make an amazing gift for your deaf friend who’s constantly watching movies.

Alternatives: Netflix Gift Card, Amazon Prime Subscription, Assorted Popcorn


9. Fibromyalgia: Exercise Equipment 

Some people love asking for fitness-related gifts for the holidays, especially if they’re planning to be more active in the new year. Before you buy your friend with fibromyalgia exercise equipment, though, keep in mind that many people with fibromyalgia struggle with chronic fatigue, which can make certain types of exercise unsafe. If your loved one with fibromyalgia happens to love exercising on the days when they feel a little less fatigued, make sure that any exercise equipment you buy matches the types of exercise they can safely do. If not, puzzles, adult coloring books, or a wireless speaker could be great gifts to keep your friend with fibromyalgia entertained on harder fatigue days.

Alternatives: Paris Jigsaw Puzzle, Mindfulness Coloring Book, JBL Clip Wireless Speaker


10. Cerebral Palsy: Slippers

Plenty of people love cozy gifts that will keep them warm in the winter, but if you’re shopping for someone with cerebral palsy, a warm pair of slippers may not necessarily be the way to go. Many people with cerebral palsy prefer shoes that provide good ankle stability and arch support, so slippers may not fit their needs. Slippers also don’t typically have a lot of traction, so if your ambulatory friend with CP struggles with balance, they may not be the safest option, especially if the flooring in their home doesn’t create much friction. If you still want to stick with a cozy winter theme for your gifts, a heated blanket or a heating pad could help your loved one with cerebral palsy manage their hard days with muscle stiffness and pain.

Alternatives: Heating Pad, Heated Blanket

Getty image by Dean Drobot.

Originally published: December 12, 2021
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