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Why It Matters When Celebrities Share Their Health Problems

25/09/2017 17:33 BST | Updated 25/09/2017 17:33 BST
Fred Thornhill / Reuters

In the last couple of years, Lady Gaga has talked openly about her battle with PTSD. Just a few weeks ago, she revealed that she also has fibromyalgia. In her documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, she lets us delve even deeper into her life with these conditions. 

Fibromyalgia is a horrible disease that's little-known. Worse, those that do know about it often play down its impact and treat its sufferers like hypochondriacs. 

Fibromyalgia is chronic pain with no known cause. It comes with other issues such as memory impairment, IBS, lethargy, and more. Doctors don't know what triggers it; very little is known about the disease. It's not lethal but it is chronic. It can make it very difficult for sufferers to go about day-to-day tasks. Sometimes just getting out of bed can take all the mental and physical energy they have.

Lupus is a similarly misunderstood disease. In recent years Selena Gomez has admitted to suffering from it, being open about how she's had to take time off from her tour to recover. Lupus, like fibromyalgia, affects sufferers physically and mentally. Selena has recently had a kidney transplant to try and treat it.

In the early days of celebrities, they weren't so open about their problems. Back in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe suffered silently from endometriosis. Aside from a clause in her contracts stating she wouldn't work when on her period, it wasn't discussed. 

Fast-forward to now, and celebrities from Lena Dunham to Halsey have shared details of their struggles with endometriosis. With the average time to diagnose endometriosis being a ridiculous seven years, this awareness is vital to helping sufferers get treatment sooner. It helps when those on the long diagnosis path read other people's stories and know that the treatments they've received have been successful. Surgery is a terrifying prospect. Support networks are key. There's nothing wrong with some of that support coming from someone famous. 

Like it or not, celebrities have power. More power and influence than most of us can ever dream of. They're also under increasing public scrutiny. It's therefore important that they're honest with us when they can't run at 100%, not only because it makes their audience more accepting, but also because it increases awareness about the plethora of health problems out there. Awareness can make a huge difference to people's lives. For someone who may feel like a hypochondriac when they're tired all the time but their blood tests come back fine and whose doctor tells them no further action is necessary, this awareness can give them the confidence to ask their doctor for further tests.

Fibromyalgia, lupus, endometriosis, and many more are silent diseases. They can creep up on a healthy person out of nowhere, and completely change their life. You can walk past someone with any one of these conditions and have no idea the pain that they're in. So next time you want to dismiss someone as 'lazy', ask yourself how well you really know them. How much pain are they in, mentally or physically? Is there anything you could do to help them?

Talking about our health issues - mental and physical - is so, so important. Even if you're not a celebrity, your honesty about what you're going through could touch more people than you'll ever know.