UW-Madison students who suffer from invisible illnesses, both mental and physical, combat alienation and discomfort daily with help from collaborative resources within University Health Services.Image By: Laura Mahoney
Invisible illnesses burden more students than meets the eye
Standing tall at six-foot-two, with a wide grin and pencil in between thumb and forefinger, UW-Madison sophomore Ruben Arndt looks like any other student. While classmates may assume from his appearance that he's in perfect health, what they can’t see is the pain of degenerative disk disease,
“A lot of people who have back pain probably have this and it goes undiagnosed a lot,” Arndt said. “[Having a] degenerative disc disease means the discs in my back are bad … and because of that it lead to other troubles in my back.”
While health issues like this may be common for many, they are also invisible to the casual observer, which poses another set of obstacles.
Invisible disorders are seen on campus more often than students may realize, according to Lisa Webne-Behrman, a psychologist at University Health Services. Webne-Behrman gave examples of depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities.
However, physical ailments can also be missed by sight alone.
William Kinsey, a family doctor at UHS, listed several examples, including Type 1 diabetes, digestive problems, certain types of arthritis and congenital heart disease.
According to Arndt, it was hard for even doctors to pinpoint his exact problem; it took two painful days in the hospital before staff could determine his spine was broken. In addition, there are even less visibly diagnosable signs as time passes.