Coping With a Diagnosis of Chronic Illness: How Can Therapy Help?
When people are diagnosed with a chronic illness, they often feel disoriented and hopeless. Sometimes, it’s impossible to prepare for such a problem — it may come unexpectedly and disrupt your plans, goals, and lifestyle.
Although it can be very strong, the initial stress isn’t the most difficult part because living with chronic health problems means overcoming challenges on a regular basis, and therefore a probability of developing chronic stress.
Depending on your diagnosis, you may experience discomfort or pain from physical symptoms, make adjustments to your everyday routine, and deal with financial difficulties. Coping with chronic illness can be difficult not only physically but also emotionally. Nevertheless, you can still stay in control and improve your quality of life by minimizing the negative impact of chronic illness on your mental health.
Coping with chronic illness can be difficult not only physically but also emotionally. Nevertheless, you can still stay in control and improve your quality of life by minimizing the negative impact of chronic illness on your mental health.
What Is a Chronic Illness?
Unlike short-term medical problems, such as the flu or acute bronchitis, chronic illnesses may last for years or even decades. As a result, a person with a chronic illness needs ongoing medical care, which impacts their everyday lives.
An unusual daily schedule and medical needs of people with a chronic illness may affect not only their quality of life but also that of their families.
Chronic Illness Examples
There are many kinds of chronic illnesses, both physical and mental. Some of the most common chronic diseases are:
- Coronary heart disease;
- Chronic kidney disease;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Bipolar disorder.
Effects of Chronic Illnesses
Chronic illnesses have specific physical symptoms, and they may also cause mood disorders and fatigue.
Fatigue and pain may become an integral part of your everyday life, and you may have to adopt a completely new lifestyle, or change your regular daily schedule because of medical procedures or exercises. As a result, you may deal with a lot of stress simply because you need to manage the symptoms of a chronic illness.
Chronic illnesses may negatively impact people’s mental health in many ways. For example, a disease may lead to physical changes and impact one’s appearance, therefore affecting one’s self-image and self-esteem.
An inability to enjoy regular activities and the need to spend less time with friends can also make a person feel isolated or contribute to the development of depression.
People with chronic illnesses may also feel anxious and depressed when their condition affects their work and career. When a person is diagnosed with a chronic illness, such a diagnosis creates a lot of room for uncertainty.
Some people who used to be the primary income providers in their families have to stay at home or ask their relatives for help. When all such factors pile up along with stress, people often feel frustrated and vulnerable.
Emotions may get out of control, and the feeling of hopelessness caused by a physical illness may develop into a mental illness. Therefore, therapy for chronic illness often turns out to be incomplete without mental health support and therapy.
Coping With Chronic Illness
The emotional problems associated with a chronic illness diagnosis can be no less bothering than the physical symptoms. Therefore, the best solution is to make sure that you can receive the necessary emotional support. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
You can benefit from professional psychological help if you:
- experience anxiety, feel sad or hopeless;
- have problems with falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night;
- no longer enjoy your favorite activities or avoid your friends;
- suffer from fatigue;
- easily lose your temper;
- have problems with memory and concentration.
If some of these things look familiar to you, the chances are that this is the right time to ask for help. Every health problem requires treatment, and mental health issues are no different.
When it comes to mental health, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective in treating a wide range of disorders, including anxiety and depression.
A licensed therapist can help you change your unhelpful thinking patterns that lead to negative emotions so that you can regain control and improve the quality of your life.
A great thing about cognitive behavioral therapy is that it can be delivered not only in person but also remotely. For example, you can talk to your therapist via video calls or text messages.
While traditional in-person therapy requires you to be present in a therapist’s office, online therapy offers a more flexible approach. You just have to choose the best online therapy platform for you, and you can do it by comparing therapy reviews.
There are many platforms that connect clients with licensed therapists and allow you to get emotional support from the comfort of your home, which is particularly beneficial for people with various chronic illnesses who may have difficulties with commuting to an office. All therapy platforms offer different treatment options and pricing plans so the best solution is to compare different platforms and choose the one that fits your needs. Make sure to check out online therapy reviews so that you can choose the right provider.
Types of Support and Therapy for Chronic Illness
As we’ve already mentioned above, a diagnosis of chronic illness can impact your life in different ways, so people with chronic health problems may also deal with a whole range of challenges when it comes to mental health.
Some people may experience anxiety or depression, while others may realize that their diagnosis and mood start to influence their relationships with family. Depending on your problem, you may choose different kinds of therapy.
1. Individual therapy
Talk therapy is all about communication, and in many cases, such communication is most effective when a client talks to a therapist in a one-on-one setting. Individual therapy allows you to address even the most sensitive topics and share all of your feelings.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is aimed to challenge thinking patterns that trigger unwanted emotions and impact your quality of life, so sharing your thoughts with a therapist is an integral part of the treatment process.
However, individual therapy relies not only on conversations but also on journaling and other practices that can help you cope with difficult feelings and regain control over your mood. For example, meditation, breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices can also be part of therapy.
2. Family and couples therapy
When chronic health problems start to impact your mental health, you may not be the only person affected by your medical condition. Your emotional problems may affect the way you interact with your loved ones, friends, and relatives.
For example, people with depression or anxiety may isolate themselves from others. In turn, avoidance can negatively affect their relationships and worsen the symptoms of the mental health disorder.
A diagnosis of chronic illness may also affect one’s self-confidence, leading to passive aggression or uncontrollable anger. If you have a family or romantic partner, the best solution is couples or family therapy, as it allows all the parties involved to express their concerns and find the best solutions.
3. Support groups
In some cases, you may also benefit from sharing your experiences with other people who have similar problems. For example, people diagnosed with a terminal illness often feel misunderstood and lack support because their friends and relatives cannot relate to their experiences and don’t understand their feelings.
When people feel like they’re left alone with their problem, such feelings can damage their emotional well-being. Talking to people with the same problem can help you feel less excluded, and their experiences can be a great source of motivation.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
There are many chronic health problems that may impact not only one’s physical health but also mental health, as well. A diagnosis of chronic illness often comes unexpectedly, it can disrupt one’s plans and goals and make a person feel isolated and vulnerable.
As a result, people diagnosed with chronic medical conditions often develop mental health problems. To minimize the impact of the diagnosis on your life, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Talk therapy can help you cope with negative emotions and challenge your unhelpful thoughts. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.