Whenever a celebrity reveals they're living with a health condition, an uptick in Google searches and doctor visits exponentially increases. It happened after Angelina Jolie revealed she’d undergone a bilateral mastectomy when the U.K. saw a 2.5-fold increase in referrals for breast cancer screenings. This is now known as the “Angelina Jolie effect.” At the same time, people were in awe of how one of the sexiest women in the world still remained bold and beautiful despite removing a commonly sexualized body part.
Yesterday, Lady Gaga revealed on Twitter that she has fibromyalgia, aka fibro. In many ways, Gaga hopes that her announcement will also mirror “the Angelina Jolie effect” and bring more people to come forward and talk about what helps or hurts them.
And it worked.
Many people who live with fibro and chronic pain thanked her for spreading the message about the illness.
It's incredible how just this one tweet has created a discussion about fibromyalgia and chronic pain and is allowing many to open up— Anthony | Lady Gaga (@antpats2) September 12, 2017
While this cycle may be repeated with Lady Gaga, there’s one stand out issue: Fibromyalgia is incredibly difficult to diagnose. There’s no official diagnostic test. Gaga must’ve been waiting years for this diagnosis. In 2010, she told Larry King she was “borderline positive” for lupus — another condition that’s difficult to diagnose — but the condition wasn’t confirmed. Imagine that.
Seven years without knowing why your body is betraying you. Seven years of ups and downs and ruling out other conditions. This experience often causes people with fibro to think they have imaginary symptoms.
But fibro is very real. It causes the brain to process pain differently, making the body overly sensitive to touch and other stimuli.
Thought ice helped #Fibromyalgia. I was wrong & making it worse. Warm/Heat is better. Electric Heated Blanket, Infrared Sauna, Epsom Baths.— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) September 12, 2017
The mixture of relief and frustration one must feel from finally receiving a diagnosis — but also experiencing a health runaround by an invisible illness — is something complicated to unpack. It’s a process which Lady Gaga says is a focus in her new Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two.” The documentary will be available September 22. In the meantime, Lady Gaga wishes to “help raise awareness and connect people who have it.”
When you look at Lady Gaga’s dedication to her craft, the energy and work she puts into her incomparable performances, and the kindness she shares on a day-to-day with her fans and victims of abuse — this journey is more than admirable.
It's empowering because now others are thinking more about invisible illnesses. It's encouraging because the conversation is opening up for people to support each other. And it inspires people to pay more attention to their health and get the treatment they need, sooner rather than later.
Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline.com. When she’s not editing or writing, she’s spending time with her cat-dog, going to concerts, and posting gray, unsaturated photos on Instagram. You can reach her on Twitter.