I’m not SICK, I have a VOCAL DISORDER!!!!

“I get so tired of people thinking I am sick.  I am a pretty private person, but should I just tell people I have a voice disorder?” – Anonymous

The simple fact is, many people are not aware vocal disorders exist.  So, it’s probably no surprise that chronic limited or compromised voice can often be confused with short term illness.

At some point in life, we have all had days where someone asked if we were feeling OK.  It seems like such a trivial exchange… maybe not even worth remembering.  However, what if multiple people asked that question… every single day?  This could, of course, be draining for anyone….  So, what if you have a vocal disorder?  Chances are… you may be asked if you are sick.  How should you deal with that question?

In this video, I share my thoughts on how to respond when someone asks, “Are you sick”?   Please do chime in and let me know what you would do?


  1. Andrea Hardaway says:

    So, let me hear from you.. How do you deal with this situation or what can you recommend?

  2. Carrie says:

    I have AD/SD. I work in a grocery store in the produce department. I get asked EVERYDAY by customers if I’m sick. I just say, “No, I have a voice disorder”. It helps me to relax a bit speaking to them once I let them know about it and some people will even ask me about it and if I’m doing anything to treat it. Every person I’ve told has been really nice about it. Even the ones who at first are irritated at something and I’m the first person they see so they want to take their irritation out on me, once I tell them about my voice, their entire attitude changes and they suddenly become nice!

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      Hi Carrie –
      Thank you for sharing that. I was wondering, since you are in front of customers all day…maybe there could be a creative way to let people know about your vocal disorder before you greet them. I’m not sure… maybe a button under a name badge? May be a good way to relieve some of your frustration and also increase awareness.

  3. MARGARET says:

    For me it is easier to just tell people, for clarification. A lot of times when I am on the phone my voice shakes and people think I am upset about something, which usually I am not. I would rather explain than have them think I am on the verge of a breakdown or something. If they are out there wondering what is going on and perhaps passing along incorrect information about me (especially if I am at work) I would rather people know what the accurate situation is. But that is what works for me. I don’t want people going around wondering “what the heck is wrong with her” So it is best for ME to clarify why I sound that way.

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      HI Margaret –
      Sounds like you have a great plan in place that works well for you. It’s great to head off the confusion or rumors and also a good way to increase awareness.

  4. Hakim Attar says:

    I am not sick, either I have a vocal catastrophy or a vocal scizophrenia.

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      Hey Akim!
      Thanks for your post. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be in such turmoil and have to deal with being asked that question. I am wishing you the very best on your journey.
      By the way, I love the way you described the voice problem. I think it helps people understand that it is a chronic condition and not just a very short term and light affliction.

  5. Belinda says:

    I’m asked that a lot, along with “you poor thing” or “hope you feel better”. In the past it bothered me, but not any more. Sometimes I just smile or say “thank you”. Other times, I tell people that I have a vocal disorder. I also have some business-like cards which I use to introduce myself. The cards indicate that I have a vocal disorder, the name of the disorder, and a medical definition for the disorder (on the back). This has worked very well for me the past several years. I have found that, given this information, people listen better and are more comfortable conversing with me.

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      Great thought about the business cards. We need to feature the card concept on this site!

  6. Dana says:

    Thank you all for sharing! It is good to know I’m not alone. I like the business card idea!

  7. Dortha Hise says:

    This is great – and I love the ideas shared here. I’m still learning how to respond in social situations, however, I often get “hope you feel better” which often throws me for a loop because I feel terrific, aside from the vocal disorder. I agree with Carrie that stating “I have a vocal disorder” is a response that lets the other person know I’m not ill.


    • Thank you for your comment, Dortha! The social situations are probably one of the biggest areas of concern I hear about fro members of VoiceMatters.net too (along with using the phone and managing a career). Definitely, working together to share the ideas is helpful for all! 🙂

  8. Nancy says:

    This is so hard. I’m very private and unless I’m going to have a long term relationship with someone I prefer to just say I have laryngitis but I feel fine. Usually it’s a struggle to talk and I just don’t want to go to the trouble of explaining it to someone who I’ll never see again. If I’m going to be bumping into them again I usually say I have a voice disorder and if they want to know more I tell them but I never go into it with someone at that level of acquaintance. Most people are fascinated to hear I get an injection in my throat though. However, I have never felt irritated by people asking. If they ask, then I assume they’re a caring person and it’s not their fault that I get asked this question every day.

    • Hi Nancy –
      Thanks for sharing that. I love what you wrote when you said, “I assume they’re a caring person and it’s not their fault that I get asked this question every day”. Wow! What a very caring and compassionate perspective. THANK YOU for sharing that.
      That thought can be applied in sooooo many areas of life.

  9. David Linares says:

    I am so glad I stumbled upon this website. I have been so overwhelmed with my voice disorder. I really feel like it zapped the person I was prior to having voice issues. I used to be so involved in everything and now I am afraid to speak. I am always worried about what people will think or how they will respond. Some people have said some really mean things but it is usually followed with an apology once they know I have a voice disorder. I really am fed up with people asking me if I am sick and I pray everyday there will be some medical progress in helping with voice disorders.

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      HI David –
      Thank you for your comment. I am always bothered when I hear of the criticism those with vocal disorders may get from others. Please don’t ever isolate yourself. The truth is, if someone makes an unfavorably comment regarding your voice… it may *feel* like it casts a temporary shadow on you. However, it really is a reflection of their character and core.
      There will be times people make insensitive comments unintentionally. Those are the opportunities to increase awareness for the disorders and help others have an opportunity for empathy.
      Cruel comments are unacceptable.

      Regardless of who says what, please know… no one’s opinion is any more significant than your own. We can control outsiders, but we can control the actions we take to improve the inside.

      Thank you, again, for your comment. I hope my words are somewhat helpful.

  10. Laura Petitti says:

    Hi all-

    In my line of work, I do a lot of talking; in person, and, and the telephone. After introducing myself to clients, the next thing out of my mouth is in regards to my SD. I explain that I have a voice disorder, that it is sometimes difficult for me to speak, or, to get words out, and that I do not mind being asked to repeat myself if necessary. I also state that I am not embarrassed, and will answer any questions they have regarding the disorder.

    For many years, I attempted to keep my disorder hidden. I was mortified every time someone asked, “What is wrong with your voice?” The more I heard that, the more self-conscious I became. Oftentimes, people would sympathetically state, “I hope you feel better.” In those instances, I would play up the ‘being sick” part.

    There are certain instances when it is extremely difficult for people to understand me (e.g., talking on the telephone, or, ordering food at a drive-thru). I remember trying to order a milkshake at a fast-food restaurant. The girl taking my order started laughing at me and asked, “What’s wrong with you?” I was agitated and fed-up. I told her I had throat cancer. I imagine it was shocking to hear; she apologized, and told me the food was “on her.” I feel sad, and guilty for doing that. At the time, I did not have the necessary coping skills to deal with the disorder, and was not able to engage in meaningful conversation regarding it.

    It has taken years and years to get to a place where I am comfortable with my disorder. I now feel confident, that instead of hiding my voice, or, making excuses, I can now advocate for myself. It also serves as a means to educate others to this rare disorder.

    Unfortunately, I still have difficulties ordering food at a drive-thru. I can’t tell you how many times I have received diet (pop) instead of fries. Moral of the story – Always check your bags before leaving the drive-thru!

    L. Petitti

    • Andrea Hardaway says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your candid take on the situation and how you responded then and now is amazing. I am glad you have gotten to a place of being confident and advocating. I know you are doing a wonderful job of increasing awareness of vocal disorders. Every person you connect with… every time you share your story, it matters! Thank you for doing that!