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An adult male clutches his armpits in pain in the midst of an HS flare while his grandmother comes in for a hug

Communication, Body Language, and HS

Communication is one of the most important aspects of life. It sets a positive tone to create and to maintain long lasting relationships. It is a basic requirement that serves as a foundation to build confidence. Apart from speaking in an articulate manner, body language is just as vital as verbal communication. It assists us to understand and decode a person’s emotions and intentions.

The importance of body language

Studies show that being watchful of our posture subconsciously affects our thinking and decision-making abilities. The way we walk, sit, or stand has far-reaching implications on our mood, happiness, and energy levels. Keeping arms constantly folded, sitting slumped, offering a weak handshake, or having a scrunched-up face might signal a sense of boredom, frustration, or a general sense of unhappiness. It sure is hard to showcase our best behavior every time, but with an invisible disease lingering in the hidden areas of the body, maintaining the correct posture can be quite challenging.

I was in my late teens when I got Hidradenitis Suppurativa, a condition that surfaces mostly in the intertriginous areas of the body like armpits, under the breasts, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks. When HS first developed in my armpits, it looked very much like a heat boil. I had assumed that it could have been a common bacterial infection building on the skin. I had hoped that regular use of an antibacterial soap and a course of antibiotics could help clear the area. But with time, the symptoms only got worse. They would reoccur in the exact same spots causing outbreaks and scarring.

Bodily discomfort, chronic pain, and behavior

Every condition comes with its own host of unique challenges. No two conditions or individual experiences are the same. As for me, I had to apply cumbersome dressings that would last only a few hours as the open wounds would leak of puss all day. Painful sores and scars had restricted my movements predominantly. I could barely lift my arm to shake hands with a colleague to reciprocate a greeting. I found it inconvenient to hug an old friend, wave goodbye or use a fork and a knife at the dinner table. It was a strenuous task to correct my posture when I found myself slouching on the chair, sitting with ankles locked for prolonged hours or leaning more on one leg while standing.

HS had its own way of reminding me about the oozing boils and painful bumps that would repeatedly cause friction. A bad posture causes neck pain, stiffness, muscle fatigue, and poor circulation, but HS was more of a nuisance to withstand. I was unable to continue with a job involving any sort of physical labor.

The contribution of other nonverbal cues

People around me had no idea what I was going through. Initially, it was hard for me to decipher whether to be straightforward about my condition with someone unfamiliar or talk about HS in a casual conversation after establishing a rapport. Mostly, I would choose to wait until it came up naturally. Thankfully, the strategy worked for me, most of the time. Dealing with a long-term skin disorder associated with high levels of psychological distress can be emotionally taxing.

Despite importance given to body language and gestures, they mustn’t serve as the most important factor for analysis and judgement. There are other variables such as maintaining good eye contact, displaying effective listening skills, a warm genuine smile, a friendly nod, the tone of our voice that could signal mutual respect and understanding for both parties.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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