The dangers of being too optimistic as a Huntington’s caregiver

Prioritizing positivity at all costs can be more harmful than helpful

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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A Pollyanna is someone who maintains an optimistic perspective, even in the face of difficult situations. As a cup-half-full kind of guy, I like being positive. However, it’s essential to find balance, especially when dealing with mental health or other significant issues. Toxic positivity can be naive and harmful.

I’ve found this balance to be particularly important in caring for my wife, Jill, who has Huntington’s disease. I recently made a list of some potential pitfalls of being overly optimistic:

Underestimating disease severity: Huntington’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of cognitive abilities. If I maintained a Pollyanna attitude, it would be easy for me to underestimate the seriousness of these issues, which could negatively affect my wife’s treatment and disease management.

Dismissing negative emotions: Being too optimistic can also result in dismissing or downplaying negative emotions. It’s important to validate and address these feelings when dealing with a rare, terminal illness.

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Not preparing for future challenges: The symptoms of Huntington’s worsen over time — something Jill and I are very familiar with. For instance, we’ve noticed that Jill is experiencing a cognitive decline, as evidenced by her cutting herself several months ago in the kitchen with a knife. By maintaining an excessively optimistic outlook, I might neglect to prepare for future disease progression.

Ignoring the need for support: Although Jill’s condition hasn’t progressed to the point where I need caregiving help, both Jill and her mother, Edwina, have told stories about the importance of having help in caring for Jill’s father, who also had Huntington’s. I’ve learned that asking for help, both emotional and practical, is vital for me to remain healthy and be at my best for Jill. But putting on a brave face and having too much pride might keep me from seeking out the necessary help and resources.

Creating unrealistic expectations: As someone who likes to be an optimist, I know I have the tendency to paint an overly rosy picture of life and set unrealistic expectations for myself. I want to be a hero to Jill, but I work a demanding full-time job. Realistically, will I be able to give her the time, energy, and attention she deserves as her disease advances? Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and maybe even resentment when reality doesn’t measure up.

Burning out: Sometimes, when I peer into the future, I wonder if my tendency toward positivity might cause me to take on too much, leading to exhaustion and burnout. It’s something I need to watch out for, as prioritizing positivity at all costs could cause me to ignore my own needs and well-being.

I share these thoughts in hopes of helping other caregiving Pollyannas understand the possible effects of being too positive. It’s OK to acknowledge the challenges and hardships that come with an illness like Huntington’s. A balanced perspective allows for more effective coping strategies and a healthier mental state for both the caregiver and the patient.

Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Ricki avatar


I read your articles and enjoy learning.. I don’t feel so alone. I do need help desperately I feel like I’m on burnout. I feel like my health is deteriorating because I don’t know who to talk to or what to do or what to say. My husband has Huntington’s and gradually I am seeing more signs I’m afraid for him because he’s in denial.

Richard avatar


Ricki, you are the first I have seen who also has a spouse in denial. I understand your plight very well and share you concerns as HD is not a topic we can discuss in our house either yet it is present daily in our lives. You are not alone. Richard


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