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28 Things You Shouldn't (and Should) Say to Someone With Fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States. Symptoms can include joint pain, fatigue, sensitivity to touch, sleep disorders and problems with cognitive functioning, or “fibro fog.” But because symptoms vary for just about everyone, it’s difficult for outsiders to understand what exactly fibromyalgia is — and what to say to someone who has it.

The Mighty teamed up with the National Fibromyalgia Association and asked their community what they wish others would stop saying to them — and what they wish people would say instead. Here’s what they had to share:

1. “Is that a real illness? I’ve heard it isn’t real.” —Kim Pallireto

Kim Pallireto says 'is that a real illness? I've heard it isn't real.'

2. “I’d like to stop hearing things like, ‘You look good,’ and ‘If you just lost weight, were more active, got out more, etc… you’d feel better.’ Instead, I’d like people to say, ‘We’d love to have you join us if you feel up to it,’ or ‘I know it’s hard for you got get out… how about if we bring pizza (or whatever) and watch a movie together?’” —Donna B. Russell

3. “‘I know you’re in pain, but sometimes you just need to push through it.’ You have no idea how hard I’m pushing already!” —Lily Blagg

4. “It’s not fibromyalgia; you’re just getting old.” —Donna Gregory Burch

Donna Gregory Burch says 'it's not fibromyalgia; you're just getting old.'

5. “Are you going to the right doctor?” —Lisa Harris

6. “You are just depressed.” —Calvin Kovatch

7. “It’s all a mental thing. If you strengthen your mind you would be fine.” —Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson says 'it's all a mental thing.'

8. “I know someone that did (fill in the blank) and that worked for them.” —Jane Dettmer

9. “Get a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better tomorrow.” —Stacy Pestine Misenko

10. “‘You can’t blame everything on your fibromyalgia.’ Instead they could ask, ‘How is that related?’ and I can show them materials on fibromyalgia.” —Gina Rose Ott

Gina Rose Ott says 'you can't blame everything on your fibromyalgia.'

11. “You need to pray more and think positively.” —Diane Hoadley Norton

12. “Why aren’t you getting any better?” —Kelly Finlayson

13. “You really can’t work? Must be nice.” —Cindi Taylor Hughes

Cindi Taylor Hughes says 'you really can't work? must be nice.'

14. “’Oh you’re being lazy again today.’ I would like them to say, ‘Do you feel tired? Is there anything I can do to help you?’” —Diane Mullins

15. “You’re always sick, aren’t you?” —Peggy Hughey Tucker

16. “’You don’t look like there’s anything wrong with you… you look great.’ What a backhanded compliment that is just irritating.” —Vicki Vinson Dalton

Vicki Vinson Dalton says 'you don't look like there's anything wrong with you... you look great.'

17. “Try to go to bed earlier.” —Nancy Phillips

18. “It can’t hurt that much, I barely touched you.” —Lisa Cisneros

19. “You’d feel better if you exercise more and lose some weight.” —Ann Ward Reid

Ann Ward Reid says 'you'd feel better if you exercise more and lose some weight.'

20. “‘If you just changed the way you eat, I bet anything you’d feel better.’ What I wished they’d say is, ‘I can’t imagine feeling pain every day.’” —Pamela Frechette

21. “What’s wrong with you now?” —Tiffany Dowling

22. “’Your pain cannot be that bad, or are you feeling better today?’ I would like to hear… anything other than those two things.” —Bonny Bordeleau

Bonny Bordeleau says 'your pain cannot be that bad.'

23. “I would like to hear, ‘[I’m here] if you need to vent. Just do what you can.’” —Karen Browse

24. “Maybe you should get off some of those pills.” —Dedra Stock-Deig

25. “You’re a hypochondriac. There is nothing wrong with you.” —Rona Folds Williams

Rona Folds Williams says 'you're a hypochondriac.'

26. “All you need is a good massage.” —Angela Blake Morris

27. “Well at least it’s not terminal.” —Angela Blake Morris

28. “I don’t know what I would like to hear instead. My husband is incredibly supportive and makes me feel so much better with everything he says. Just having someone there to listen helps.” —Nicole Jennifer Nuss

Nicole Jennifer Nuss says 'just having someone there to listen helps.'

For more information, be sure to visit the National Fibromyalgia Association’s website and Facebook page.

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity


Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.

Originally published: November 19, 2015
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