Living with a Chronic Health Condition

Have you been diagnosed with a chronic health condition? Wondering how you’ll cope?

Chronic illnesses are mostly characterized by a condition that is long lasting, has many risk factors, complex causes, a long latency period, and which has a functional impairment or disability. A diagnosis of a chronic health condition such as diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis or diabetes or arthritis can be very stressful.

Once you have moved past the initial shock of your diagnosis, you need to learn to manage both your condition and the stress of having the condition. It is not easy trying to deal with multiple aspects of your condition such as discomfort and the physical pain, adjusting to your new physical limitations, managing increased financial pressures, and coping with feelings of confusion, isolation, and frustration.

Chronic pain with depression and anxiety

With poor treatment responses, increased healthcare costs, decreases in functioning and chronic pain and mental health issues are often co-occurring. In fact, 30–40% of patients
with chronic pain, also experience symptoms of depression.

Pain and depression can be associated in several ways; first, the physical pain coupled with reductions in functioning and increased social isolation may trigger a depressive episode, secondly, the presence of depression or anxiety may decrease initial tolerance to pain thereby increasing susceptibility to a chronic pain condition, or alternatively, both may be symptoms of a common underlying disorder.

A combination of medication and psychological therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are likely to have the greatest impact.

Life-threatening diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening or terminal disease is likely to trigger feelings of fear and grief. More than ever, it is important to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Try to find small things that you can enjoy every day, and set realistic short-term goals for yourself. Even small goals such as a visit to a museum or park, or a phone call with a close friend, can help you make the most of each day.

How do I cope with a chronic illness?

Dealing with your diagnosis head-on may be confronting, but it will help you to understand, manage and adjust to your illness.
Writing down questions for your treating health professionals, setting goals and making a treatment plan are all good ways to confront and cope with your illness.

Where to go to for support?

A chronic health condition can be very stressful, but there are ways to manage. Even it can be difficult to know what to do and how to cope, help is available.

  • Talk to someone you trust because you don’t have to go through this alone. Tell them how you feel and ask them to help you.
  • Use available resources like online support groups or smartphone apps.
  • Get support and help to stay alive, contact a helpline, a hospital emergency department or your doctor, a counselor, teacher, minister, psychologist or psychiatrist or anyone you trust to keep you safe.
  • If your life is in danger – call emergency services 911.

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