Vitiligo can be confusing to people who don’t know the chronic skin disorder well. It’s natural to want to console or offer any advice to someone with vitiligo, even when one doesn’t understand the nature of those rapidly enlarging white patches.
Even though you have good intentions, some of the said things can be downright insulting and hurtful. In all fairness to them, how could you know the right responses from the wrong? Well; worry not. Helps is at hand. Here are a few things you should not say to someone with vitiligo:
1. You seem fine to me.
The invisible consequences of vitiligo are low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression (in severe cases). Sometimes, dealing with psychosocial stress in vitiligo is more difficult to live with than visible patches. People with such skin disorder may look normal, but deep down inside they are fighting bigger battles.
2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough.
Cause of vitiligo is unknown. If a vitiligo fighter knew how to cure him/herself, he won’t have waited a second. Be aware of problems rather than mimicking or implying that the person you are speaking to is lazy.
3. Your treatment isn’t working.
Prescription drugs that attempt to cure vitiligo can sometimes take a very long time. But, if you blame everything on the effects of drugs, you might be encouraging someone with vitiligo to stop taking an important drug prematurely.
4. My friend/relative’s experience with vitiligo was much worse than yours.
A vitiligo fighter can be extremely lucky to have less visible or unnoticeable patches. But, that does not negate what he/she continues to deal with. You may know nothing of his/her struggle to go to public or set up a date.
5. I know a great doctor; I bet he could cure you.
Again, this is a well-meaning sentiment that comes across all wrong. First of all, talking about “curing” someone’s vitiligo immediately suggests that there’s something wrong with them when there isn’t. Having vitiligo is part of many people’s identity – it’s not something they see as a negative, and nor should you.
6. Have you tried mindfulness/going vegan/yoga?
Whilst all the above can help some people with vitiligo, many of them are sick of others’ unwanted ‘advice’, especially when they are not even asking for it. Not everyone can indulge in yoga or go vegan, for medical or financial reasons. Besides, it’s likely that the person you’re talking to already has a strong network of medical professionals to support him/her. So, it’s best to leave the recommendations up to them.
7. But you’re so pretty!
The real problem here lies in the ‘but’. It suggests that being pretty doesn’t ‘go’ with having vitiligo. Whether vitiligo is visible or covered with makeup, people with this chronic disorder can be fabulously gorgeous. Young, pretty and intelligent people too can have it. So refrain from stereotyping.
8. Maybe it is God’s will.
As you think about meaningful things to say, bite your tongue (figuratively, of course!) before you say any of the following unhelpful things:
- “This is God’s plan.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
- “At least it’s not cancer.”
- “Just think positive thoughts.”
- “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
9. I don’t see you as someone with vitiligo, I see you as a person.
Well, it’s possible to be both. Having vitiligo doesn’t remove an individual’s ability to be a human being. This is a well-meaning comment that can come across as a bit patronizing.
10. My friend/family member/work colleague has vitiligo so I totally understand.
Knowing a person with vitiligo, whether it is personal or mutual, does not mean that you understand what it is like to have vitiligo. Vitiligo fighters are the only ones who can truly understand and tell you what it’s like.
11. At least you don’t have Albinism
Refrain from comparing conditions and assuming that one condition is worse than another. Each skin disorder affects individuals differently and comparing people and their health does not bring anything positive to the table.
12. You’re lucky to be alive.
This sounds like positive thinking. But, is it really? A person with vitiligo is more likely to have suicidal thoughts than someone without it. Some may not feel very lucky to be alive. Instead of calling it “luck,” talk about how strong or heroic the person has been for staying unaffected by the chronic skin disorder.