The words disease and illness are often used interchangeably. They are also confused as being the same thing or similar when actually there are important differences between the two terms. A disease can be described as an abnormality in the body, organs, or systems. Whereas illness is a period of sickness affecting the mind or body. What is the difference between an abnormality and sickness though? Why is it that these definitions sound so similar when in reality there’s a large difference between the ways doctors treat an illness in comparison to a disease?
Both diseases and illnesses can be acute or chronic. They are both caused by foreign body pathogens or environmental changes attacking the body. The difference between the two terms is that someone could be experiencing a disease without knowing that they have it. They could mistake their symptoms and signs as a common stomach bug or flu. However, an Illness is associated with a diagnosed label of a certain sickness, which explains the symptomology. In other words you can have a disease without knowing but with an illness, it must be diagnosed in order to exist. With illness comes more mental and physical complications.
For example, when one gets diagnosed with a disorder that requires changing an eating pattern or taking treatments, a person could be in denial and refuse to follow what the doctor has instructed. This can lead to seriously detrimental results. Both disease and illnesses cause pain and discomfort. However, a label can bring either relief or distress depending on the individual. Some of the other topics we’ve talked about in class involved social and cultural constructs relating to health and wellness. Just like with anything in the world, the perception of health changes from place to place. Regardless of the labels though, disease and illness is an issue throughout the world. While other places may not have the same diagnoses of the illness, the diseases are very much the same as well as the symptomology.
This is another difference between the two terms. Many people confuse the word disease with condition, a mix-up that doesn’t happen as much with the word illness. Conditions are bodily dysfunctions that people are born with. They come out of the womb with a deficiency of some sort. A disease is caused by the world around somebody and the person accumulates from the environment around him or her. Disease and Illness, though similar in their definitions, are not at all the same thing. Socially people may accept the words as interchangeable but in the medical world itself everything is very particular with how terms and ideas are organized.