Everything You Need to Know About Chronic Illness and Mental Health

Chronic illness takes a toll on your mind and body. Your disease is in your physical body, but it still affects your emotional life. When you're diagnosed with a chronic illness, you are often aware of the symptoms brought on by the condition. That's why you sought out a diagnosis in the first place, right? What those with an outside perspective might not understand is how chronic illness can affect your mental health.

First, chronic illness can be isolating.

For example, things that you’re coping with might prevent you from attending a variety of social events. Depending on your illness, there may be some things that you are unable to do entirely, such as participating in sports. Sometimes there are activities that people with chronic conditions can participate in safely. Different forms of yoga are safe for people with chronic illness.

When you have a chronic health condition, you need to worry about things that those who are not ill do not have to be concerned about. For example, a person with IBD (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) may need to be aware of where the nearest bathroom is wherever they go. It is nearly impossible to be spontaneous when you are forced to plan every activity around your illness. It can be hard to relate to other people who do not have the same anxieties about preparing around your illness.

It’s entirely possible that you may become too ill to hold a job. Not only is this isolating – but can also lead to feelings of low self-esteem, which can contribute to a decline in mental health, and more specifically – depression. There are added financial problems, which are caused by high treatment costs. Monetary stressors can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

The inability to work, or the general need for additional care, might make you feel dependent on others for support. Feeling reliant on other people, whether it's family, a spouse or health care providers can make a person feel weak and helpless. Some people believe that they are a burden to those around them due to their illness.

If you are reading this, I can assure you that you are not a burden. You didn’t choose to have a chronic illness, and it’s not your fault.

chronic illness and mental health
Many chronic illnesses cause exhaustion or chronic fatigue. Exhaustion can negatively affect your mental health in multiple ways. Being tired impairs your cognitive functioning and makes it difficult to keep up with the conversation happening around you. When you’re feeling out of it, you might feel left out. You may feel misunderstood by those around you. This lack of understanding from peers can be painful and isolating. The good news is that you are not alone in this feeling. Other people who have chronic health conditions who also struggle with these feelings of being misunderstood. There is help you there for people like you. There are mental health professionals who understand chronic illness and the effects it has on people’s mental health.

While the mental health care system has a long way to go, there are now more resources than ever. Online therapy options such as those offered online (click here to learn more) are now available. Online therapy is a safe convenient option, which makes care accessible for those who have a hard time getting to and from therapy centres due to their chronic illness. You don’t have to suffer from chronic health issues alone. Reach out to a mental health professional and talk about what you’re dealing with. They are trained to guide you toward managing your mental health issues so you can live your best life.

This is a guest post from Sarah Fader:

Sarah is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

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