People generally use “suffer from” or “suffer with,” interchangeably since they both basically mean the same thing. “Suffer from” is more common when we talk about long-term illnesses and “suffer with” can be something that is intermittent or temporary.
There is a difference in the prepositions themselves which should lend to appropriate usage. Regardless, if you say “from,” rather than “with,” most native English speakers won’t pick up the difference.
The preposition “from” indicates something at a distance or afar whereas “with” suggests togetherness and connection. It is this subtle, yet distinct, difference that should dictate discernment between saying “suffer from” or “suffer with.”
“Suffer” is a verb that references struggle, injury, or some other painful experience. This sometimes means something medical but it can also be psychological, emotional, spiritual, or other similar human condition.
Examining the Differences
While it’s true today’s use between “suffer from” or “suffer with” is interchangeable, it’s important to pick apart the literal differences. Not only will it give you a more detailed understanding, but it can also help enrich your command of the English language.
Grandmother suffers with Alzheimer’s disease.
Grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
There are a couple of ways to interpret both sentences above. The first is in the context of the time in that “with” indicates the present time in the current moment and “from” references the present but it’s a drawn-out experience.
The other way to read this is in the context of the person’s link to the suffering. “With” would then indicate a connection intertwined with the person. An example of this may be depression “From” would mean that the condition afflicts the person outside and away from themselves. An example of this could be cancer.
While this may seem tedious and confusing, consider the examples below to further study the subtleties.
He suffers from dementia.
He suffers with dementia.
I suffer from ignorant people around me.
I suffer with ignorant people around me.
The accident caused her to suffer with migraines.
The accident caused her to suffer from migraines.
While it’s possible to use either “suffer from” or “suffer with” interchangeably, there are certain times where it doesn’t sound quite right. So, there aren’t hard and fast rules. It’s a judgment call on the person using the phrase.