The emotional impact of living with Bell’s palsy

If you have recently been diagnosed with facial palsy you will be facing many physical and psychological challenges.

Whilst people generally access the appropriate medical treatment for their Bell’s palsy, the psychological impact is often ignored by health care professionals.  The attitude tends to be that you are likely to recover fully and if you don’t then you just have to live with the consequences.  Family and friends may take the same approach without realising all the physical and emotional consequences of Bell’s palsy.

  • Shock
  • Feelings of isolation/loneliness
  • Low self-esteem/low mood
  • Anxiety about what the future may hold
  • Loss of confidence in social situations
  • Loss of confidence in interpersonal relationships
  • Feeling unsupported by a partner/family/friends
  • Feeling unsupported by your GP
  • Anxious about returning or continuing to work
  • Anxious about what others may think
  • Anxious that a full recovery might not happen
  • Anxiety about how to explain your Bell’s palsy with others
  • Feeling uncomfortable about asking for help
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • Feeling emotional

All these feelings are totally normal, understandable and widely reported by people living with Bell’s palsy.

How these feelings may affect your behaviour and your relationships


Avoidance is a common theme especially in the early days of your recovery.  It takes many forms including avoiding:

  • Looking in the mirror
  • Being photographed
  • Going back to work
  • Social situations
  • Eating or drinking in front of others
  • Answering the door
  • Answering the phone
  • Meeting people for the first time
  • Kissing partner/family members/friends/children
  • Carrying out daily activities outside of the home, for example, shopping.

Feeling self-conscious

Many of the physical symptoms may make you feel self-conscious not simply because the affected side of your face may look different but because it is difficult to eat and drink properly and your speech may sound and feel very different.  (Link to Eating and Drinking difficulties: What can help?)

Invisible symptoms

  • Hearing sensitivity
  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Dry eyes

These invisible symptoms are often the cause of great distress and because they are constant in nature can cause people to feel distressed, anxious and overwhelmed.  It may be difficult for others to feel sympathetic to things they cannot see or imagine and as a result, the person with Bell’s palsy can feel very alone, unsupported and worn out.

Don’t suffer in silence

Try and explain what you are feeling to those who care about you.  Try and explain all your symptoms even if they seem small.

Read more

Reasons to start smiling

How family and friends can help

Photo by Ángel López on Unsplash