When New Jerseyans hear the word “disability,” the first images that spring to mind usually involve a physical disability – images like a person in a wheelchair or without a hand or arm. But physical disabilities are not the only form of disability. Many New Jerseyans suffer from invisible disabilities, conditions that can limit a person without being readily observable to others, conditions like seizures, chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

But while invisible disabilities are nonetheless disabilities, those who suffer from them often do not get the same recognition that those with visible disabilities garner. Indeed, many may judge or misjudge a person with an invisible disability because the person looks “normal.” For example, if a person with an invisible disability takes longer to complete a task, others may attribute the delay to laziness even though the disability was the real reason. Or consider a person with a disability placard. If the person has an invisible disability, others may accuse the person of abusing the accommodation.

Another problem that often plagues those with an invisible disability is slow diagnoses. That is because invisible disabilities are difficult to describe and tricky to diagnose. A learning disability can look like depression. Lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome share symptoms with Lyme disease. Because these symptoms overlap and are usually self-reported, it can often take doctors years to settle on a definitive diagnosis.

A third issue is securing disability benefits. For the reasons laid out above, New Jerseyans with invisible disabilities can have a harder time obtaining SSDI. The Social Security Administration can be more skeptical of these disabilities and, as a result, ask for extensive medical documentation and other proof that the disability exists. Assembling an airtight case can be difficult.

To help with the process, New Jerseyans may benefit from speaking with an experienced disability-benefits attorney. Taking such a step will ensure individuals are well aware of his or her rights and the options available to him or her at all phases of the process.