The Mental Tolls of Chronic Illness & 13 Tips To Beat Them

What is chronic illness?

Chronic illness is any condition or set of conditions that lasts over one year, interferes with the daily activities in a person’s life, or requires medical attention. Some chronic disease symptoms may include neck and back pain, neverending fatigue, nausea, mood disorders, and dizziness. 

Heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, and cancer are the leading chronic illnesses in the U.S. According to Rand Review, 60% of American adults now live with at least one chronic condition and 42% have more than one.

Mental consequences of chronic illness

Chronic illness and depression, along with other mental health conditions, are commonly linked because a chronic disease can be extremely challenging to cope with day in and day out. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can result in intense feelings of shame, resentment, fear, sadness, and frustration over long periods of time. Adjusting to a different life can be quite difficult. 

Below are the mental health consequences that can arise from chronic disease symptoms:

  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alienation
  • Isolation
  • Social fear
  • Increased stress
  • Sense of hopelessness 

Chronic depression

Is depression a chronic illness? It can be, if left untreated. Treating chronic depression can be done with medication and talk therapy. Studies show that over time, this combination may normalize the brain changes associated with depression.

One third of people with a serious medical condition experience symptoms of depression. 

Effects of depression on chronic illnesses

The effects of chronic illness depression (depression caused by a chronic disease) are very damaging to an already fragile situation. Pain associated with a chronic illness often prevents an individual from going places or seeing friends and loved ones. This leads to isolation and depression. Physical consequences can occur too, like increased fatigue. 

Tips to overcome the mental burdens of chronic illness

  1. Educate yourself on all of your choices for care both at home and at the hospital or clinic. 
  2. Choose a medical provider you really love. You’ll need to be able to express yourself honestly and openly at all times. 
  3. Don’t be shy about your emotional and mental health. Your provider can help you explore positive ways to overcome negative feelings about your chronic illness or chronic illness depression. 
  4. Create a supportive circle of friends and family in your life who are there for you every step of the way. Cut out anyone who makes you feel worse or makes you feel like your chronic illness is a burden for them. 
  5. Join a forum or community of people with a similar condition. This will help you build friendships and solid relationships with others who know exactly what you’re going through. Plug grouport here
  6. Learn as much as you can about your chronic illness. The more information you have, the more successful you’ll be in staying as healthy as possible. Learn more about your chronic illness here. 
  7. Make necessary lifestyle changes to improve your condition where you can. This could be as simple as going for a short, easy walk or maintaining a healthy diet packed with protein, fruits, and vegetables. Quit bad habits like drinking or smoking for an even more comfortable, sustainable way of living. 
  8. Seek other opinions from experts. This can be outside of your doctor or other medical health professionals. You can speak to a scientist, therapist, psychologist, or anyone else who can give you another perspective of your chronic illness when you’re curious to know more. 
  9. Properly manage your medications. Have an organized pill holder and schedule that you adhere to so that you’re taking the right amount of medication each day. Put your pill holder in the same spot in your bedroom or bathroom so you can access it at the same time every morning or night. 
  10. Look out for the warning signs of chronic illness depression. If you start to notice negative, intrusive thoughts becoming more and more overpowering, talk to a therapist, a close friend, or family member about your feelings. Depression and illness can cause backsliding and prevent you from pursuing healthy habits and choices. 
  11. Share your plans for the end of your life. It may sound daunting, but telling your loved ones what kind of days, months, or years you’d like to live out before you go may bring you peace and comfort. It also will save your family from confusion later on as to what you would’ve wanted, whether that’s hospice and do-not-resuscitate or “fight for me until the very end.” 
  12. Keep in touch with family and friends as much as you need to. Living with a chronic disease can easily lead to chronic illness depression, so it’s best to be proactive and try to prioritize socialization and time spent with loved ones to counteract any negative feelings or lonliness.
  13. Speak up. Reach out to your doctor, nurse, or physician if something doesn’t feel right physically. They can reassure you in times of uncertainty or pain. 

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