Sophie vividly remembers the day her doctor told her she had rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints). She was 25 years old. “I didn’t understand why he looked so devastated, remembers this Parisian jurist. For me, this swollen finger was next to nothing. » Except that, after the finger, it’s the wrist, then the knee, the toes… which begin, month by month, to become stiff. “I was always in pain somewhere”, says the 50-year-old. For fifteen years, the young woman did not breathe a word of her symptoms, neither to her boss nor to her colleagues. “I always thought it was going to pass”she lets go, until the day when pain prevents her from getting out of bed.
Sophie’s story is almost banal. According to the DREES survey “Daily life and health”, in 2021, 10 million French of working age report having a chronic disease or health problem, in other words a pathology which, most of the time, evolves and requires treatment over several years. This definition of the World Health Organization (WHO) includes transmissible diseases (HIV, hepatitis C, etc.), non-transmissible diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc.) and rare diseases (cystic fibrosis, myopathies, etc.), but also disorders psychic (depression, schizophrenia, etc.) and anatomical or functional impairments (multiple sclerosis, etc.).
Among the individuals concerned, many are those who, like Sophie, do not understand that they are hindered in their duties. In denial, they pretend, at their workplace, that everything is fine. Of the 2.9 million RQTH (recognition of the status of disabled worker) issued in 2021, only 20% were related to a chronic condition. “These employees are often uncomfortable with the word ‘disabled’confirms Emmanuelle Cadic, occupational physician. To encourage them to confide, I prefer to ask them if their health problems reduce their functional abilities and handicap them. The difference is subtle, but fundamental. »
“Denial is a frequent survival reflex when announcing a serious illnessadvances the anthropologist Charles Gardou, specialist in questions relating to the handicap. It helps to cushion the shock of the news. In the case of a chronic pathology, it is sometimes tempting for the patient to settle permanently in this denial, so as not to be pitied or stigmatized, especially in the office, where it is always better seen to be in good health. . »
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