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We often get asked questions about how to tell others about TMJ Disorder. This is such a personal thing, that is different for each person.. but we have gathered some tips along the way, and would love to hear your tips too!
If and when you do decide to tell others about your invisible illness, whom do you tell? Do you hide it from your family, friends, employer and co-workers? If you do decide to tell, how much do you tell? Will it strain your relationships? After all, you certainly don’t LOOK sick.
What do you say when someone asks “How are you?”… you tell them? Or do you just say “fine”?
These are all questions that you will need to answer at some point. Here are some points that might make your answers easier:

  • Deal with the impact that TMJ disorder has on your relationships directly and honestly. Avoiding discussion may help you avoid the momentary discomfort, but in the long run it is destructive to the relationship (and can cause resentment when you or your loved one is not open about what bothers you).
  • Often times it is difficult for family and friends to give you the support you need, especially when it is an invisible illness. If you are treated badly, correct the situation by explaining the consequences that actions and comments have on you. Many times people don’t realize the damaging effect their behavior causes.
  • Make spending time with your loved ones a priority. Make a conscious effort to nourish those relationships.
  • While you can’t control your illness, do take responsibility for what you can control in your life.
  • Asking for help empowers others as well as yourself. People need to feel that they are helping you.
  • Mutually decide that negative feelings you and your loved ones may have are about the illness, and not about the person. You are allowed to be angry at your illness, but don’t forget that there are positive things in your life too.
  • Not telling anyone can be a very lonely time.
  • Not everyone is going to “get it” because by nature we want everything to be okay. Your life has changed, and some of your relationships will too. Try not to worry about what others will think.
  • It’s okay to be honest when someone asks “how are you?” Who the person is and your relationship with them will dictate your answer.
  • TMJD can put a strain on your relationships. Encourage your partner to have other outlets, and you need them too.
  • As you become more comfortable with your TMJD, and as you accept it as part of your life, others will become more comfortable with it too.
  • How you decide to tell your boss or co-workers is a fine balancing act, and your approach will depend on the kind of relationship you have with them. One way of handling a supervisor is to simply say “You may or may not be aware that I have some physical problems. I will do my best to make sure they don’t become your problems. I just want to do the best job I can.”   This will show that you are a conscientious worker. Co-workers who are friends will be understanding.
  • If you are not getting the right support from those around you, seek out a support community where they do “get it.”

What tips do you have for TMJ disorder patients who are dealing with relationship issues?  If you are married or have a significant other, how do you help them understand your pain? Have you learned anything you can share about pain and your career?

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