illustration asking question about giving name to disease

Personifying a disease, or giving it a name, can be a helpful way to cope with chronic illness. It can help you to distance yourself from the illness, to feel more in control, and to connect with others who are going through the same thing.

One study, published in the journal Health Psychology, found that people who personified their disease were more likely to report feeling in control of their condition and less likely to feel helpless or hopeless. This may be because personifying a disease allows you to perceive it as something you can fight against, rather than something that overwhelms you.  “It might give me better separation in my disease not being who I am but just a part of my life,” writes Darcystrelecki.

Giving your illness a name can also help you develop a sense of humor about it. And when you can laugh at your disease, it can help you to feel less alone and more connected to others who are going through the same thing.

There are many ways to name your chronic illness. You can give it a human name, such as Alvin or Roy. You can give it a funny name, such as The Arthritis Dragon or Loony Lupus, or you can give it a name that reflects its symptoms, such as The Fatigue Fairy or The Brain Fogger.

There is no right or wrong way to name your chronic illness. The important thing is that you find a name that works for you and that helps you to deal with your illness in a positive way.

What Your Patient Peers Say

We asked our patient community to share their names for their chronic disease — and they came up with some doozies. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • “Asshole.” — Chroniceileen
  •  “I call my AS Bruno. On the days that I am pain free, I sing ‘We don’t talk about Bruno’ from the Disney movie Encanto. On the days that I’m in pain, the word around the house is that “Bruno’s back.’” — Badass_female_scientist
  • “Mine is Anky.” — j.fitzgerald
  • “When I was little we called my SJIA ‘the dragon.'” — Alexak8te
  • “We call fibromyalgia the F word.” — Lesaneedscoffee
  • ” I call my migraine attacks Hal.. if I don’t give him what he needs he eventually transforms into Suzanne… she’s the $#%@ no one wants around.” — Migrainetalk
  • “I’ve had osteoarthritis since I was a kid.. someone once told me “only old ladies get that” I’ve dubbed them my ’old-lady bones’ ever since.” — Sarah-Anne B.
  • “Todays infiltrator.”  — Catherine W.
  • “Monster.” — Carol L.
  • “My son calls his major depression his ‘Shitty Roommate.'” — Lynn S.
  • “Flat mate. I have rheumatoid arthritis.” — Samantha J.
  • “I think of my swollen elbow joint as separate from the rest of the body. It’s like an alien.” — Anne M.
  • “The Minotaur.” — Jenny R.

Tips for Naming Your Chronic Illness

Here are a few things to keep in mind when naming your chronic illness:

  • Choose a name that’s meaningful to you. It could be a name that reflects the way your condition makes you feel, or that represents something positive in your life.
  • Don’t be afraid to be creative. There are no rules when it comes to naming your condition, so have fun with it.
  • Talk to others who have chronic conditions. They may be able to offer some helpful advice on choosing a name.
  • Remember that naming your condition is just one way of coping with it. There are many other things you can do to manage your condition and live a full and happy life.

Be a More Proactive Patient with ArthritisPower

ArthritisPower is a patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. You can participate in voluntary research studies about your health conditions and use the app to track your symptoms, disease activity, and medications — and share with your doctor. Learn more and sign up here.

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