Uhh—We Don’t Want to Be Sick

Uhh—We Don’t Want to Be Sick

“Patients have figured out that by adopting the sick role and signing up for disability, they can pay their bills and yet in order to validate the sick role status, they have to participate in the healthcare system, which means taking certain types of pills.” – Dr. Anna Lembke Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. (General Psychiatry and Psychology-adult)

Straight out of the gate, lets get one thing clear, patients do not adopt a sick role to gain disability. No one looks at SSDI and thought, “hmmm…jackpot! This is like winning the bloody Mega Millions! I’m going to fake an illness so I can hop on that gravy train.” Most SSDI recipients receive between $800 - $1,800 per month with $1,234 being the average for 2019.[1] Now, if you have a spouse who is working and is not also on SSDI, this can leave you comfortable and able to pay the bills. However, if you don’t have a spouse who is working and are on your own, or your spouse doesn’t make enough or you have kids and his paycheck is being spread to cover a multitude of things, then you are most likely living from paycheck to paycheck and praying you have enough and skimping where you can to get buy. This does not validate your sick role status. It makes being sick about a thousand times worse.

Liza Zoellick

Initially, I was going to write this on pure emotion. But I am a student at heart and the term “sick role” and the fact that Dr. Lembke is a Psychiatrist had me wondering if there was more to this than a snide comment. So, after I had finished the article, I Googled the term and what do you know, “sick role” means exactly what you think it means and exactly what she implies. I don’t want to give a sociology lesson, as that is where the term is derived from, but let me give you the definition here so that you might read it as it was explained by the man himself. “ The “sick role” is a theory in medical sociology that was developed by Talcott Parsons. His theory of the sick role was developed in association with psychoanalysis. The sick role is a concept that concerns the social aspects of becoming ill and the privileges and obligations that come with it. Essentially, Parsons argued, a sick individual is not a productive member of society and therefore this type of deviance needs to be policed by the medical profession. Parsons argued that the best way to understand illness sociologically is to view it as a form of deviance, which disturbs the social function of the society. The general idea is that the individual who has fallen ill is not only physically sick, but now adheres to the specifically patterned social role of being sick. Now, I still don’t agree with Dr. Lembke but I understand where her school of thought comes from. I’m still going to decimate it starting with why not working doesn’t validate us in our “sick role.”[2]

Part of who we are is what we do as a job. It’s where we derive our self-worth from. When we work, we earn money and we are able to take care of ourselves and our families (which would include our spouse or children, if any). When we can’t work, and we’re reliant on our spouse, or family to help us, or the government to help us, we become a burden. We do not live in a society any longer where we are close-knit with extended family where everyone sort of helps one another and if one is having a bad time of it everyone pitches in to help. So, when you find yourself in dire straits, you are on your own and if you aren’t in a good, financial place where you can support yourselves on one income you are typically looking at a spouse or SSDI. This leaves the patient who is sick in a place where they are feeling a great deal of guilt and sadness. They have lost their source of income, they have lost their health, they are progressively having feelings of low self-worth and with the strain of income it is likely to put a strain on the relationship. No one wants to feel like they are the cause of everything falling apart. No wants to feel like they are a burden. People outside the relationship don’t understand why you can’t work. They think you’re just at home watching movies and eating bon-bons. Instead, you’re feeling miserable. So, no, this does not validate the sick role. And no one would want to validate the sick role in a way that could jeopardize their happiness and their marriage.

Here we come to my favorite part of this whole ridiculous statement: “they have to participate in the healthcare system, which means taking certain types of pills.” You began by talking about us patients signing up for disability and end with us having to participate in the healthcare care system by taking certain pills. Which to me, is putting the cart before the horse. Patients begin going to the doctor and seeing specialists and taking pills long before the make the decision to file SSDI. I’m not sure who you’ve been talking to. We don’t decide to participate in the healthcare system. We participate in the healthcare system because we are sick. We take medicine because without it we would be in pain. It angers me that you are so quick to judge those of us who are sick and fighting to pursue what is ours, making a mockery of illness by calling it a “sick role.” How dare you. Do you have any idea how long it takes for many of us to finally receive the benefits we need? You should be ashamed of yourself. Patients need an advocate on their behalf to fight for them not against them. As a doctor this is what you should be doing. Of course, now I understand where this term of the “sick role” comes from, I understand that you perceive those of us who are sick not to be productive and therefore, to be deviant from “normal” society. I could write a ten-page paper on how I feel about you and Talcott Parsons and this “sick role,” but I prefer to spend my time advocating for those of in chronic pain and who are chronically ill.

As for the “certain pills,” which was ambiguous, to say the least, many of us do take opioids. Many of us have taken opioids for years and the range of prescriptions varies between all of us and dosages vary as well. The ambiguity of which you express us taking these “certain types of pills,” just to fulfill our “sick roles” makes us seem little more than junkies getting our fix. That might not make much difference to you but it does to me- on behalf of everyone within this chronic illness and chronic pain community. We may be little more than deviants who don’t fit the productive society mold, but we all have valuable insights yet to offer and contribute even though we may not be able to work. We’re advocates and we support one another, and we will continue to shout to those who make the rules regarding our health that we’re here and we want to be heard.

[1] https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/how-much-in-ssd.html

[2] Crossman, Ashley. “Sociology Definition: Sick Role.” ThoughtCo, Nov. 14, 2018, thoughtco.com/sick-role-definition-3976325.

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Authored by: Liza Zoellick

Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: https://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Dana Elise Silverman

Comments on all Posts:

Glen, whatever your “big secret” is, it must not be very helpful, or for the sake of humanity and regard for fellow sufferers, you would disclose it. This bologna that you will not disclose it for fear someone else will sell it is ridiculous. Who cares if someone else sells it. Your interests should be to help as many CPP’s as possible here, there, and everywhere.

While Lembke is garbage, I do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water. Psychiatry and Psychology are two important fields of medicine which yield important discoveries about the human brain and human behavior. If not for both fields, the discovery of PTSD would never have occurred for example. As far as pain medicine intersecting with psychiatry and psychology, the results are mixed. The anti-opioid crowd, many of whom have never seen a pain patient (Kolodny and Lembke) seem to have findings and opinions which are anti-pain patient, while others, my doctor for instance, understand chronic intractable pain is a illness in and of itself. These two fields are also helpful in many other areas. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s just throw out Kolodny and Lembke types only and keep the two fields which have great merit.

Carole Proffitt

👏 Bravo 👏

Liza is very much on the mark.

When I began advocating for chronic pain patients, I was involved in discussions of the then-pending fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Some of my early work concerned the impacts of psychiatric diagnoses on people in pain. Extracts were published by Dr Allen Frances on Psychology Today. Frances was formerly Chair of the writers group for the 4th edition of the DSM — and one of the most vocal critics of the lousy work that produced the 5th edition.

I’m not a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and I wouldn’t want to be. A lot of “research” long held out as confirming theories of psychiatry has been impossible to duplicate when the studies are done over by other authors. Professionals call this the “replication crisis”. And they politely refrain from pointing out that the original proponents often had financial self-interests in promoting their work — even when they had to cherry pick or distort their results to do so.

The term “sick role” turns up in scholarly discussions of “psychogenic pain” and psychosomatic medicine. But most of psychosomatic medicine has no basis in research. The idea that the way we think causes what we feel physically (and that we can reduce our pain by changing our attitude) is dumb as a rock! It’s just more of the “your pain is all in your head” BS. “Catastrophizing” also pops up in this literature — and it makes me want to spit nails at idiots like Lembke who use it to stigmatize people already in agony. There is no such thing as “catastrophyzing”. Chronic pain IS a catastrophe.

So keep on writing, Liza. Lembke and her PROP cohorts need to hear the message: time to look for a more honest line of work!

Kim Quintero

OMG are they serious. What is wrong with these people.
I sure never wanted this. I was a hard worker and have many awards to prove that. How dare them. It just makes me sick how they and the Doctors now are treating us. My check is half of what it was and they believe we are lazy I can’t even fix my car. God forbid you never know our pain.

Daxx Kahn

SSDI is below even a weekly minimum wage position, no one aspires towards below poverty. Many people and companies would benefit from work at home positions that can conform to peoples illness. Anna Lembke outside a clinical setting has no experience with genuine Chronic Pain Patients or addicts neither does Kolodny and CLINICAL versus REAL TIME is huge.
Lembke like Kolodny were insignificant prior to the Opioid Hysteria so they are latching onto it for self profit career and financial wise.
Neither was willing to debate me in public but they won’t debate anyone who has masters degrees and works while being a chronic pain patient.


Dr. Lambke like Kolodny are being paid huge $$$ to testify in the Mass Tort Lawsuits being brought by States against Big Pharma. This is an older article from 2018 but is helpful to understand what all the hysteria was being created for and why now we don’t hear anything from the mass media while overdose deaths (mainly from illegal fentanyl) are still going up as prescriptions have plummeted. https://legalnewsline.com/stories/511325120-opioid-litigants-to-talk-settlement-at-closed-door-meeting-in-cleveland


Straight out of the gate people defraud Social Security Disability lots of times. They defraud Workman’s Compensation, and they sue everybody. And, I love me even if I flip burgers for a living. I am not defined by a Job. I want a TV Newspaper or a Lawmaker for an Advocate. Ambiguity? Deviants? Productive society mold? Actually you lost me at the “gate”.

T. Negrete

Glen, Why would you tease any of us with your secret? If it’s a secret, keep your secret without baiting us! Now, if you truly have a cure for pain, go forth and get on the band wagon with all the other HEARTLESS, money grubbing, blood sucking people making profit off this FAKE Opioid Crisis! Not in here please! Very rarely can I put words down, however, this is not acceptable!

Alice Carroll

Lembke is so totally off base and leads back to the same talking points that the National Socialists used in Germany in the 1930’s. If people were deemed to be a burden on society they were to be euthanized. The Nazi’s did this despicable deed. This is also used today as Republican strategy for denying health care, social security disability and treatment for those in chronic pain– blame the patient make them feel they are a burden and write them off. Easy to say when you’re not one of the sick. Do these people really think we tried to have car accidents, botched surgeries and war wounds so we can live the rest of our lives fighting for proper pain care? You do not receive SSD benefits unless you worked and paid into the system.

Others play the blame game and seek revenge. It’s not the Son who bought the drugs which HE decided to take, which took his life. Blame his friend who got the drugs for him, the dealer who sold them, the company that produced them, the government agency which allowed them to be sold, the scientist who developed the drug and God who produced the plant that has the effect of relieving pain. Never mind that the same drug helps so many in pain.

People living with chronic pain have much to offer society. For example, these columns which are an inspiration to so many. We are survivors and are able to teach people how to live with dignity and grace when life puts tragedy in ones path.

renee white

For 26 years I worked as a nurse I started at 16 in a nursing home as a unit helper got my CNA by the time I graduated high school and then my LPN I was making $50,000 a year then I got sick but I still worked from 3:30 in the morning to 7 at night as a dialysis nurse then when I could no longer do that I started working in a doctor’s office applying for disability was the last thing I wanted to do it took me three years even though I have multiple health conditions that should have got me approved immediately I actually had to leave the hospital AMA to go to my disability hearing after I became disabled I attempted suicide because I lost all sense of purpose I loved what I did it was my passion I am so tired of people saying you’re just lazy that’s why you’re on disability do you think I want to live on $1,284 a month do you think I want to be trapped in an abusive marriage because I can’t afford to support myself any longer do you think I want to take a handful of pills every single day no since I’ve had my meds cut I have become completely bed-bound I’m only 48 years old and every day I get to hear about what a lazy jumped out pill-popping addict I am because of the media and Society just once I would like some of these critics to understand what it’s like to be us imagine being beat from head to toe with a baseball bat and then having the flu on top of it 24 hours a day 7 days a week I vomit from my pain I have had 3 failed hip surgeries from the waist down I feel like I’m on fire all the time so just sit there and say we take on a sick role the only one that’s taking on a sick role is the assholes that judge S I can’t wait for karma to start kicking some of these people’s asses


People that worked for a living do not want disability. Lazy people do think that $800 s month is the “jackpot”. Also there is a faction that make money “under the table” and pay no taxes. This would definitely include street drug dealers. That $800 might well be enough to invest in drugs to sell. Politicians are clueless. People who make money on the drug trade are happy to support politicians that pass drug restriction laws. It’s great for business.

Colleen Milliron

Boy, did Liza hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Not just for those suffering from Chronic Pain, but for the one’s that are also struggling every day with Depression, Anxiety and PTSD; I speak of myself. I didn’t want to get on SSDI, in fact I fought it while being interviewed by a lady at the S.S. Office. I was walked down to the office by a Social Worker at a place where I ALSO was put on medication after my departure from a hospital for attempting suicide. I also want to be able to find a voice out there so family members, friends, all of whom I have lost due to my illnesses; DO I LIKE LIVING ON A LITTLE OVER $700 A MONTH??!! Absolutely NOT!! It is a constant battle for me to, “make up” stories to neighbors and, I lie to them about working. I recieve no help from family with the exception of, and I’m quilt-filled saying this, my brother helps me live in a home. I too would love to be able to work instead of suffering from the loneliness, the constant mental illness I suffer. It’s a TERRIBLE way to survive!! I don’t say Live on purpose; because this is NO way to live!! I compliment your article I just finished reading Liza. I did sign up for your website information on living with physical pain. And, even though my issues are different, they certainly mirror most everything Liza spoke about.

Thank you from another CPP who greatly appreciates your efforts.


I fully agree with the statement above. We in chronic pain need advocates from doctors. I feel sorry for this doctors patients. I sure wish I didnt have to be using the health care system and waiting for didability for years. It does cause considerable sadness that adds to the daily chronic pain. People, including many doctors, have no idea what living with chronic pain does to our lives. Ive told everyone I know that it sure would be easier to work if possible than dealing with others looking down on me all the time. Then add the physical pain….

Megan Leslie

Let me just go ahead & rudely state what we are all thinking. FUCK Anna Lembke. That woman is one of the nastiest, most heartless beasts in the medical community. No wonder she pals around with Kolodny & the PROP cult. She’s hateful, sadistic & cruel. It appears she became a “psychiatrist” for the exact same reasons as Kolodny. To say they’re a “doctor” & to torture as many people as possible while fouling the profession of medicine. These are some of the worst kinds of people. I’m on disability. I don’t get NEARLY enough to support myself & kids, so we have to burden my parents in so many ways. I’m EXTREMELY offended by her comment (shocker.). I used to work 2-3 jobs at a time, physical labor. This is part of the reason I’m on disability. All those jerks & their ilk can kiss my pasty crippled [edit]!!!


I have been keeping a secret here. One that could help most people to control pain. I am not sharing it now for two reasons. One is anything free can be discarded like a free puppy. A $500 dollar puppy has a better chance. If you don’t put a value on it, the person who takes it won’t either. After 30 years of serious pain, I learned something that is so simple most people will not believe it. Another reason for keeping it to myself is someone will sell it. I paid a heavy price (in pain) and years of seeking. Every Philosophy, Science, and Religion. There are some people here that may be smarter than me, but that won’t do it. No one is more skeptical than me. And usually “too good to be true is too good to be true”. I am not going to suggest reading all the books or following anyone. There is no shortage of “Know it all’s”, but what if I do?

Loyal P Kuhn MsD

Dr. Anna Lembke is as stuffed full of crap as a Christmas Turkey. I didn’t decide to leave a $3600.00 monthly salary to glory in a $1180.00 monthly income and I am quite sure that living in chronic pain is going to involve only one pill that I take 3 times daily so I can be mobile and not lie in my bed in agony. Screw her and her sick little illogical mind. She should have to spend time on a disabled veteran’s hospital ward before she sticks her two cents into the debate.


Mary, 1 in 19 Americans are on disability. Some got it because a lawyer knew how to get it and get a chunk for himself. We all have met some of these people that clearly could work. Dr. lembke does what Buttheads do- use them to discredit all pain patients.

A psychiatrist has become a psychiatrist because they couldn’t make it as a regular dr of any kind. They are generally very weird & messed up psychologically themselves.

To give an answer reply to Brian; you must run with the lowest crowd of people to actually say that you’ve known people who sell their pain meds & find that $800 a month to live on is a jackpot. I personally call bull sh#t on you.

Nobody wants to live the way people in pain or disabled by dis ease live. I was able to work another 8 years because I had proper pain control. I lost that & now that I can’t work I have no choice but to depend on my SSDI. Not what I had envisioned or wanted. This was supposed to be my time, kids grown up, doing what I wanted to do. Ride horses still, travel, maybe go on a archeological dig. Nope. I’m just collecting my ‘jackpot’ unable to do much of anything.

Psychiatry is still a bunch of mumbo jumbo & those people are still as uneducated & lost as fraud Freud. Scary thing is that millions are suffering so a few psychiatrists can make a bunch of undeserved money.

Valerie Hirschberg

It is often very true when one person accuses /criticizes (or a group of people) of some issue, abnormal behavior, sickness etc. in truth they are describing themselves. This crazy lady is the one with “sick behavior”. She is one who needs to see a (qualified) doctor.


A surgeon gave me permanent nerve damage because he was too caught up with the steamy affair he was having with a woman younger than his daughter to pay attention to the textbook red flag symptoms I was repeatedly telling him. Instead of finding ways to help me manage the nightmare he left me with, he and the other doctors I turned to for help incessantly pressured me to go on disability. When I told them that I wanted to keep working, they scoffed and said, ‘What for? You’re just a teacher!’ I had to figure everything out on my own because I wasn’t worth the effort of helping. I guess nothing we patients do is ever right. We’re considered lazy freeloaders for going on disability and a waste of time when we ask for help to find ways to keep working.

Denise Bault

Lisa, thank you for your eloquent reply. Just goes to show that doctors can be ignorant too. One day they or a loved one may develop a chronic pain illness….and then maybe, just maybe, they might actually know that of which they speak.

Michele Howe

Well done, Carrie E. Frabasilio

It seems that all Physicians, psychiatrist & psychologists r taught this very thing sick role.
Dr. David Nagel writes about this in his book” needless suffering” that every physician looks at a patient who is on disability as gaming the system. With this bias we have to take even more trips to the doctor bc we’re not being listened to seriously. One time I saw a psychologist to discuss how my multiple health issues affect my life / relationships & at the end of the visit he asked what my insurance was which I thought was odd bc they asked that before you can make an appt, I told him it was Medicare. He said of course it is that’s what everyone says. I walked out & never saw him again. What an A-hole. I wished I got the amount Liza’s stating people get. I spend more out than I receive just on medication no certain medication. This is no Lottery it is a huge burden 2 the point many commit suicide. Many days I think how much more can I take , will I get worse. I had surgery, I have more pain now than I did before & this is the fate of many people on disability who try to get out of being on disability & end up worse. Even a failed surgery is blamed on the patient. How’s that gaming the system? How does that fit into the sick role needing surgery? Dr.Lembke full of herself.


It has been widely communicated in the press that psychiatrists are not supposed to give diagnoses without having interviewed the patients. {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwater_rule } Yet here is a blanket comment by Dr. Anna Lembke, essentially stating that all people on SSDI are playing a “sick role” and implying that chronic pain patients (CPP) want to be sick to game the system for money on which to live .

Dr. Lembke is credited on the Stanford Profile page for being the doctor “to sound the alarm regarding opioid overprescribing and the opioid epidemic.” {https://profiles.stanford.edu/anna-lembke } Yet, these numbers have been shown to be erroneous. One person cannot die 2,4,6 times yet they can have 2,4,6 causes of death, resulting in “double dipping” when it comes to the counts. {https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db329-h.pdf} Even with the high number of overdoses, they include illegal and legal drugs and still 1/3 of the overdose deaths had zero opioids. {https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/index.html }

My question is, if it is unethical for a psychiatrist to diagnose patients without seeing them, then why hasn’t American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology at least issued some form of reprimand for such damaging, demeaning comments or why hasn’t Stanford terminated her employment.

If this quote is out of context, then someone needs to explain it in context. Otherwise, taken as it is, it implies that CPPs are less than, do not deserve to even get help for general welfare. I thought doctors were supposed to care, not demonize patients. Even she is just an accident, an illness away from a life of chronic pain. Rather than belittling the very patients she should be helping, she should be thankful that so far she is not suffering, nor any of her loved ones.

tina carlettini

Awesome article, thank you very much Lisa!


Can’t believe it! This person should have her license revoked!! Evil.

HJ Anon

The way that so called “professionals” are allowed to stigmatize and discriminate and HARM people is a travesty. No, we don’t want to be sick. I would give anything to be well again. I’m fighting to continue to work. I don’t know how long I can, but I’ve seen what it’s like to rely on disability payments. Some day I may have no choice. I am fearful, for a lot of reasons.

I don’t need the stigma. Being a professional or having a degree does not elevate ANYONE to give them any right to judge others.

I’m disgusted by this so-called professor. She’s indoctrinating others with her discrimination and ignorance.


While I find the “sick role” concept offensive and extremist, I also find today’s column to be the extremist on the opposite end of the spectrum, ignoring lots of facts/reality.

I’ve had intractable chronic pain for over a decade and have been mostly homebound for most of that time, unable to work or do much more than go to medical appts.

I’ve been a victim of a forced taper, and of a pain manager who summarily kicked me out of her practice due to a tox screen that supposedly showed high alcohol, even though I’d had zero alcohol for years. She refused to consider lab error etc.

BUT, there absolutely are people who fake being disabled.

In areas of our country where low-skilled, high wage jobs have disappeared, many people clearly claim disability for the income. The numbers support this.

And, dont’ forget good-paying Union, employer, and private disability benefits.

Just one of many examples: a former Mass firefighter who who claimed disability after a fall and said he couldnt’ even do a desk job, was discovered to be participating in national level weight lifting contests. One doctor was found to have certified a lot of firefighter false claims.

Clearly there are other frauds.

The author wrote that jobs are “where we derive our self-worth from”.

That’s simply NOT true for MANY people; probably MOST people. Trust-fund babies certainly don’t. And all the people that HATE their jobs and who dream of winning the lottery to be able to stop working.

Does she think that her self-worth concept applies to people who work at horribly physically taxing jobs for very low pay and bad conditions? And, lots of educated people in “fancier” jobs absolutely HATE their jobs. The movie “Horrible Bosses” didn’t come from nowhere.

When I had my legal career and was able to support myself (no spouse/partner), I did derive self esteem from my accomplishments. But my career was never my identity and I don’t view myself as having any less worth due to my current situation.


Excellent article. However a couple of the coments shows the stigma disabled people face. In my state Disabilty is very difficult to get. I know first hand because my husband died waiting.


The statistics dont support the claim pain patients are addicts, so now they take opioids to get a check that wouldnt support a house plant. These PROP psychiatrists are in need of competency hearings, not their patients.


Thanks Liza for this well-written and well-thought out article. As to some of the commenters who talked about those who abuse the disability payments awarded them; of course there are going to be these types of people. Catching them feigning disability is difficult. That has nothing to do with Dr. Lembke’s statement or the article. Please read the article and understand/absorb the content (if you are able) before adding comments that detract from the subject.


Being sick and being in pain are 2 different things. Dumping all injurious methods and all medically related ailments is ludicrous. Spinal damage whether by injury or hereditary circumstance. Still means our to sick to work. Opoids work where other modalities just exacerbate the trauma. Now me. I’m sick and tired of being discriminated against because I’m in pain. Especially when it hurts so bad I’m nauseous.


Lisa, Thank you! I totallly agree! “Sick Role” .. How demeaning and disgusting!

This mean label is used by those who’ve never been chronically ill, or lived with a chronically ill person. This “sick role” concept is used to divide us; to draw negative attention to people who are envied. Yes, ENVIED…. because of misconceptions about what it truly means to be soooo ill in the main that you can not work, nor can you routinely participate in the activities of daily living.

Now, you might be wondering why on Earth a fully-abled person would ENVY a disabled person… so think about it. Behind the backs of, almost out of ear-shot of disabled folks, those fully enabled envious people whisper and eye-roll as they make quick, pointed comments about someone, who knows someone, who told someone else about “Joey”, yes, Joey..that fat lazy guy who gamed the system! He looks ‘normal’, and we alll KNOW he is JUST FINE, but he claimed disability and Social Security fell for it!!

Allegedly this “Joey” was helping to move a refrigerator for his daughter, and slipped. His left arm got pinched and swole up, so he got xrays it was broke in 2 places. “Shoooot!”, they all say! “We broke all kinds of bones. They put you in a cast, then a sling. You do some PT, and you are right as rain!” “But not Joey… Ohhh no! You know he’s always been kinda lazy..and he complains so much. He didn’t like his job, so he was just LOOKING for an excuse to get outta there. He saw a chance to collect a bunch of free $$, OUR $$$, so he glommed onto the ‘sick role’… He looks JUST FINE, thank you very much! I saw him playing catch with his grandson…and if he can do that, he can work, by God!”

They have no practical knowledge or understanding of the many illnesses that lead to disability, and what a ‘day in the life’ really is. They envy what seems like tons of free time and receiving ‘a bunch’ of $$$. Their minds are set. Joey is a faker! Ugggh!!

Mary W.

Another comment: Perhaps Dr. Lembke ought to have conducted her “study” by including the Legal profession, as there are many fine attorneys who pursue individual Social Security Disability Income claims. Some cases are heard in a trial setting before an Administrative Law Judge! Dr. Lembke obviously did not consider the Social Security “Blue Book” of disability conditions!

Mary W.

No injured patient suffering from a medically diagnosed condition (osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disk, fracture bone from accident, heart failure) wants illness. Nor wants to be an “actor” in a sick role.

This quote by Dr. Lembke is an abusive statement towards patients with a permanent medical condition (or multiple conditions). No person chooses injury, cancer or infection.

Liza, yet another well written article by you! Bravo! And Thank you for always speaking up for our Chronic Illness community. Hugs to you.


Fake disability is a way of life for many.
When I had a historic Victorian home restored in the northeast, virtually every worker the general contractor hired was on disability. He paid them cash.
So were their wives in many cases.
It’s an easy gig. Abuse of the system is rampant.


Anna Lembke, like Andrew Kolodny the Dr Mengele of pain care, is a bigoted unqualified ghoul. As a member of PROP, she is a leader in a patient cruelty treatment approach to pain as long as no one is “addicted”. People who are “addicted” to insulin and blood pressure medicine are no different than people who take safe, legal, and effective medicines for pain management.

Wow. She blew my cover. I’ve been developing my sick role status since age 18, right about when I was sexually assaulted (raped for us old school ppl). Nothing more rewarding than relying on your family and furthering your already crappy self esteem. I understand if this doesn’t get approved. I’m just starting to acknowledge anger and depression and pain factors.

Carrie E Frabasilio

Wonderfully put. I was full of emotions when I first read this statement a few days ago, and none of them were positive. After simmering down, I did a bit of research on the good doctor, and can tell you that statement is just par for the course with her. A Vox interview from 2017, contains much more stereotyped insultive opinions which are just as offensive. Relegating those who use opiates as undereducated, underemployed and suffering from psychological problems, etc. To add insult to injury, she regurgitates many unscientific and disproved theories pertaining to the use of opiates and those who use them. She is using her Ivy League education, and status as a psychiatrist to promote her agenda based upon opinions not actual scientific and statistical evidence. That she has a platform large enough to do damage, is the real tragedy in this scenario. It’s past time to call these people out with the truth and shut them down.

Judie Plumley

Oh my goodness! What a pompous idiot this shrink is!!!! You go, Liza!
It’s enough to make you think evil thoughts and wish the walls to come crashing down on their heads!
You know what the problem is? Our society works on the Darwin System: Survival of the fittest. If you don’t fit in that mold, you are a user.
If you don’t contribute to Society, you deserve to be punished, because you are taking away from others.
I have seen articles several times where Millennials are blaming the Baby Boomer generation for sucking up all the wealth for themselves, and “What the hell are we going to do with the Baby Boomers, now they are getting old and sick, and are such a drain on Society?”
Heartbreaking, isn’t it? That some of us are born with illnesses that need to be managed all our lives, and others suffer calamities during our lifetime that leave us “a drain on Society”. Yet, as time goes on, we see more and less compassion, to the point even our healthcare professionals feel justified in punishing us for the audacity to complain about the pain we are supposedly in.
All I can say is what comes around goes around, God be with them when it does!

Steven Morse

Thank you! Well said!

Gretchen Schafer

Standing ovation! Well said!


Psychiatry is a bunch of quacks writing prescription which, more often than not, make people sicker. Freud was fraud.
Most psychologists I’ve tried are sicker than I am and are, mostly abusers. Am I surprised to hear this from some “doctor of the brain”? No.
We know more about outer space than inner space.
I learned about most of what was wrong with me from the books of the great Alice Miller who wrote about childhood trauma and one VERY good Psych social worker who used those principles with compassion. The last one I saw wanted to run my life. I had two sessions with her before I ran.
Bunch of awful people so certain of what is, basically, a mystery.
So,. now they not only want to torture us, but have a reason for doing so. Watch the republicans pick THIS up

Michele Howe

OMG, how ridiculous is this “Drs” opinion?!! I would love to have her live my life for even just one day. She wouldn’t make it through day one. To say that this is a choice is insulting and demeaning. I would love to bounce out of bed each morning pain free, energetic and looking forward to going to work. I would love to feel like a productive human being again. Going to multitudes of Dr appointments is costly with co-pays, a struggle and depressing when told again and again that there is nothing that can be done to rid myself of these conditions and disease. I feel like a failure even though intelligently, I know that I did nothing to cause this nor did I deserve it. I was almost fatally injured by a Dr during an operation. Not only did he fail at the original reason for the surgery, he caused four life threatening injuries. I spent almost three months in the hospital, mostly the ICU.
As much as I can remember, not one day did I ever think I was on vacation or easy street from then on. Do I like being on medication? Hell no, I hate it. My 22 year marriage was lost as well. I have so many things that need to be done around the house that just pile up, not getting done. I’m on my own, so all of the responsibility falls on me. I cannot afford to pay anyone to help me. Being disabled means you lose social contact, become secluded in your home, anxiety and depression galore, monetary loss, a lower standard of living, being judged by strangers, loss of self esteem and much more, a lot more. This Lady’s opinion angers me as you can probably tell. How dare she imply this sub-life is a choice! She doesn’t have a clue to the reality of what Chronic Pain and Chronic Condition/Disease Sufferers go through just to make it through the day. It is not a preferred way of living.
I could go on and on.


I am SO appalled and disrespected by her comments! This is exactly the opposite attitude of most chronically patients, who view the ‘normal’ segment with envy. Oh, how we all wish we were participating in life as we used to know it! Instead we are screaming for help from the medical community and science! We sit on the sidelines waiting for medical research to catch up to our illness/disease/injury and offer a solution.

It’s appalling that any medical personnel see this woman’s comments as potentially fact! Some gave limbs for this country’s freedom…are they in this category? Some had their bodies blown apart…are they considered ‘sick syndrome’ people also? Some were in auto accidents caused by drunken drivers, or born with horrific diseases. Some have cancer.

How dare she! And to think ANY mental health professional could state, let alone publish, comments like this shows how far down we’ve dropped as a society. This is in the category of people who take rifles and kill innocent bystanders. Total lack of empathy for those most vulnerable members of our society.

Appalling and totally disrespectful! I may be ill, but not too ill to show some empathy. I cannot wait for one of her loved ones to be in my shoes….she’s just one accident or illness away…

I pray her comments are disregarded.

You go girl! A long time ago I came to find that psychiatrist need psychiatrist themselves! They are some of the strangest people I’ve EVER happened across in my lifetime. Saying this about human beings that God created who aren’t as fortunate as others that HAVE TO take disability shows their extreme stupidity on a pedestal. It wasn’t my dream job to make $750 a month and kiss my interior decorating business goodbye! I could no longer walk and my back hurt so badly that I literally cried when I got in my car to go home. I worked while wearing two knee braces, a back brace as well as an ankle brace. When your best customers say I hate to lose you but you need to file for disability, you know something’s wrong. It wasn’t even my idea but the more they spoke of it the more I thought yes they’re right, I definitely need to do something. Sadly enough I lost ALL of my friends and family because everyone of them thought I was on easy street and lazy. People who have no earthly concept of what true chronic pain is need to learn to be “very careful” about what they say because one day it just might be them. God definitely works in very mysterious ways. Dearest Liza, I thank you for not giving up and for continuing to be a voice on behalf of those of us who no longer feel we have a voice. May God bless you always. Hugs and prayers are sent your way.


Preach it, Sister!!

Your emotional content is beautiful, but I love that you dive into the terms to truly educate as well.
Thank you!!!

Gail Honadle

Autoimmunes and there are 100 known ones don’t do well on man medications. Lyrica and Neurotin are 2 of the worst. Those were A Fib ER trips. Some are mild like Hives. I’ve had 15 Neuropathy and FMS meds, 14 had bad reactions. The oldest, cheapest Valium seems to work the best. Clears the Fibro Fog, reduces the Neuropathy pain. I’ll take a Level 4 over a Level 10 any day of the week. Because I’m a multi health patients drugs don’t often mix well. The old canard you can’t mix a Benzo with a Pain med is a LIE. Physche drugs may have a different reaction. But Seizure meds is another kettle of fish. I’m 71 in 9 days and age related health issues compound treatment.

Doctors “over-prescribing” opioids did not cause our “drug crisis.” Nearly half of all overdoses don’t involve opioids at all. Among remaining drug-related deaths in 2017, half involved illicit drugs — imported fentanyl and heroin. Only about 18,000 deaths involved a “prescription opioid” — and most of those also involved multiple illegal drugs and alcohol. Medical exposure is not the problem.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says most addicts begin to abuse alcohol and drugs in their teens or early 20s – before they encounter opioids. Contrast that with folks over age 55. Seniors are prescribed opioids for pain three times more often than youth under age 18. But seniors have the lowest overdose rates of any age group. Kids now overdose six times more often.

We do have an addiction crisis in America. But it’s related to lack of care, not prescribing. Prescriptions to people in pain are rarely involved in this tragedy. Restricting drug supply and counting pills won’t help. Forcing pain patients off the only medications that work won’t help.

Restrictive policies are now driving pain management doctors out of practice across America — and driving patients into agony, disability, and sometimes suicide when they are deserted. Most of what we hear in media about opioids and addiction is flat out wrong