Chronic Illness: How it Impacts Your Emotions
Is your chronic illness hiding the real you? The you that used to laugh, be adventurous and enjoy life to the hilt. Did you know that your emotions may be affecting your illness? Many individuals diagnosed with a chronic illness have great difficulty adjusting to this fact and may develop long-standing emotional problems, mostly consisting of depression and anxiety. These same individuals often make the mistake of not seeking treatment for their emotional symptoms believing it is a ‘normal reaction’ given their medical situation. Depression and anxiety can sabotage adjustment to their illness, lower tolerance for pain and even worsen their medical condition. Emotions, thoughts and medical problems can affect each other. Here are two examples of people with chronic illnesses and untreated depression and anxiety.
An individual does not consistently follow up on his treatment recommendations because he feels hopeless about his life ever improving. Without routine treatments his ability to get around declines due to lack of exercise and weakening muscles As a result he gets more depressed and anxious about his illness. He finally discontinues all help much to the regrets of his family.
Pain – Emotion – Pain Cycle
Another individual has been missing work because of avoiding pain when he walks despite his physician telling him, “Don’t give in to it.” Fearful of not being able to pay his bills, he develops panic attacks, his perception of pain increases and he misses even more time at work. This cycle of pain – anxiety – more pain caused him to quit his job.
You can stop the formation of these cycles and find the real you. Enjoy your life again! Get help.
Who is in Charge?
Are you taking charge of your chronic illness or is it taking charge of you? There are many different chronic illnesses. They can develop at any age as well as when we get older. Some can have a minimal impact on us and others can be life threatening. Yet each can have an irreversible effect on our lives in terms of emotional functioning and the tasks of facing daily challenges to our way of life.
By definition a chronic illness is a condition that does not go away – there is no cure. Modern medicine can only offer treatment to control the medical condition, slow it’s progress and prevent it from getting worse. One common denominator of all the chronic illnesses is the fact that you are left with the task of learning the skills to live successfully with it.
Guidelines for coping successfully with a chronic illness:.
1. Keep active by having a fixed schedule every day. This can keep you
involved in purposeful activities and prevent negative ruminations and
feelings of worthlessness.
2. Build a network of people in your life for emotional support. Isolating
yourself is not productive and can cause an increase in depression.
3. Learn what situations trigger your symptoms, e.g., pain, and try ways of avoiding them.
4. Find relaxing, pleasurable activities that build your confidence and pride in yourself.
5. Learn to recognize negative thoughts that can increase anxiety and
There are many more guidelines and recommendations. The good news is that learning to cope with a chronic illness can be accomplished with research-proven forms of treatment.
Pain is inevitable – suffering is optional! This quote from an unknown source has been going viral on the internet. Some think it’s ridiculous, “Well if that idiot ever had_______ (you fill in the ailment) he’d know how stupid this sounds. Are you saying it is all in my head?” Please hear me out.
In the past it was believed that only the physical factors were seen as causing chronic pain. Today the view of medicine is broadening to also include the psychological and social aspects of one’s life. Major lifestyle changes due to a chronic illness often brings distressing emotions that can lower one’s tolerance for pain causing even more suffering. Understanding and intervening in the psychosocial factors that are affecting your pain perception gives you a choice in how to react to your illness.
What are the some of the psychosocial factors influencing chronic pain/suffering?
- social isolation
- frequent scanning of painful site
- loss of independence
- depression and anxiety (fearfulness and hopelessness)
- inability to work or cut backs at work
- unsatisfying interactions with significant others due to your chronic illness
Our role is to help you sort out the aspects of your life that are contributing to your pain and suffering. You can learn to change the thoughts that are prolonging your discomfort. Take the first step in taking control and regaining your quality of life.