A Guide to Managing Your Mental Health with a Chronic Illness
Many people diagnosed with a chronic illness, whether it’s recent, ongoing, or returns in phases, have at some point or another found themselves experiencing symptoms of poor mental health. It is completely normal and understandable, considering the strain a long-term condition can inflict on an individual’s ability to cope. This is a guide to managing difficult emotions and improving your mental health in the face of dealing with chronic illness.
What Effect Does Chronic Illness Have on Mental Health?
Suffering from an ongoing health problem can be the cause of anxiety and depression. Physical discomfort and pain combined with uncertainty can lead to feelings of continual fear and hopelessness. These emotions can become a problem themselves if untreated and unaddressed. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling fatigued and uninterested in usual pursuits,
- Becoming more irritable than normal,
- Staying quiet and interacting less,
- Not finding pleasure in ways that you usually would,
- Experiencing intrusive thoughts.
Speak to a Professional
One of the first recommended steps is to find someone you can share your thoughts and feelings with who won’t judge you. While the support of friends and family is important, experts in psychiatry can offer unbiased and practicable techniques for coping with the mental burden of long-term conditions.
Trained counselors who specialize in dealing with the unique emotional needs of people suffering from chronic illnesses can be a great source of information and guidance if you are finding it a struggle to cope. No matter how your illness has affected your emotional and mental well-being, a professional can help you understand and overcome your negative feelings in order to improve your everyday life.
Create a Support Network
Having a mental health professional to talk to is a great first step, but you may also find it useful to reach out to people within your existing circle. Loved ones will want to ensure you are well, even if you don’t feel able to divulge everything you’re going through. Having friends and family there to listen or occupy you when you want a distraction can make the mental effects of chronic illness more bearable.
Manage Your Illness
Feeling out of control is another significant way that chronic illness can negatively impact your mental health. To remedy this, learn how to appropriately manage your illness to the best of your ability. For example, take medication when prescribed by your doctor, attend all appointments when possible, or use an automatic blood pressure monitor to help your doctor keep an eye on your progress. The more you feel in control of your illness, the better your mental health will be.
Chronic illnesses come in so many forms and are experienced in a variety of different ways, but many people diagnosed with chronic illness share similar feelings of anxiety, confusion, and fear. By seeking professional guidance, leaning on your support network, and finding ways to manage your illness, you can start to improve your mental health and lead a more joyful life.